This blog post answers the quandry of when to use jargon in copywriting. Jargon is a word that refers to the specialised language that those in a group use to quickly communicate information to each other. This positive definition of jargon might surprise you. We’re used to judging and talking about jargon negatively. Maybe those who use it are secretive, keen to keep their knowledge to themselves and shut others out. Or, we may also think of jargon as used in an elitist way, by intellectuals, scientists and academics – the big brains of society – to show their superiority or authority.
Everyone Industry Has Its Own Jargon
Every industry has its own jargon – from professional footballers or pole vaulters to manufacturing firms or real bread makers who rave about ‘sourdough starters’. Think of jargon as a recognisable set of words, phrases and concepts that help people in the same group describe to each other how they do what they do. Jargon is a sort of shorthand that helps people in that group to communicate with greater speed and accuracy.
Rules for Using Jargon in Copywriting
- Write in such a way that your readers understand. So, if you’re a writing for those within the jargon group, then some jargon is permissible, even expected.
- Do not let jargon turn into clichés. If overused, even valid jargon can become a substitute for clear, comprehensible writing.
- In web pages, articles, blog posts or knowledge bases, explain all jargon and technical terms you use. Do this the first time a term is used, so those new to your industry or topic can get oriented quickly.
- When communicating with the general public, or even those who work in the sector but who may not be familiar with the words it uses, avoid the use of jargon. It’s best to find a Plain English alternative otherwise you may end up with a Golden Bull Award!
- If you are a specialist in a particular area, be aware that you might be writing about your product not to other experts but those in HR or management positions in other organisations. They may take your words and use them in incorrect ways because they don’t properly understand them.
There’s hardly a topic more filled with millennia of jargon than philosophy. But as one of their twentieth century’s greatest philosophers put it:
“What can be said at all can be said clearly, and if we can’t say it clearly, we must remain silent.” (Ludwig Wittgenstein)
Debate & Read More
How do you feel about the use of jargon in copywriting? Do you encounter websites that seem to be written for the in-crowd and forget about casual browsers? Do you have any rules when writing for your business or for clients? Let me know in a comment.
Read Foolish Language, Foolish Thoughts on what happens when poor English is used in the workplace.