We all use it. Every business has it. And in the right environment it can be a useful shorthand that speeds up and facilitates communication about complicated topics.

No, this isn’t an early Christmas cracker riddle. I’m talking about jargon.

Used internally, jargon is fine, sometimes even necessary. It can give you credibility and authority. But used for your external audiences that same language can leave folks perplexed, confused or downright bamboozled.

Einstein told us, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

In brand terms, I would add “If you can’t explain it simply, then your customers won’t understand it well enough.”

Jargon in your brand messaging runs the risk of pushing your customers away. It can seem like a secret insider language that keeps them out and stops them from being part of the brand’s ‘in crowd’. Not what you want at all.

So, if you want your brand to be accessible, engaging, and easy to understand (of course you do) then you need to take a jargon busting approach to writing your copy.

Top reasons to avoid jargon

  • Using industry jargon will make you blend in with your competitors. It won’t differentiate you. It dulls your message and fails to show your brand personality.
  • It makes it really tricky for search engines to find you. Do you know how many brands are ‘making a difference’ or ‘showing that they care’? Worse still, touting their TLAs and airing their acronyms? Almost as many as are ‘taking a holistic approach to customer service’.  Does anyone know what these chaps can actually do for me? Google definitely doesn’t.
  • Jargon is frustrating if you don’t understand it. You may know what a saggar makers bottom knocker is (are there any Potters out there?) but to your average audience it is unintelligible gibberish.

Jargon busting tips

  • Write the way you talk. If you can’t say it out loud without sounding pretentious then you need to edit. Say it as simply as you can.
  • Know who you are talking to. Use language that resonates with your audience. Choose the words they use when they are talking about your product or service.
  • Make the technical stuff as clear as you can. Don’t use clinical, official or specialist words. Unless you are talking to clinicians, officials, and specialists….
  • Avoid using TLAs. The Three Letter Acronym might be great shorthand when you are talking to your colleague, but it can mean nothing or, worse still, something completely different to your audience. Leave your SLAs and your LMTs and your KPIs at home. Explain them or write them out in full.

I would leave you with the words of the great advertising guru David Ogilvy on the subject of jargon. But this is a guest blog, and he wasn’t polite. If you want to know, message me.

K is for Keywords >

Andrea Holland
Strategic Communications Consultant
The Charity Academy