In business, jargon is frequently used to convey expertise and simplify complex subjects. While it can be easy and convenient, there are some pitfalls, especially when your teams use it too often. Improve your internal and external communications by paying attention to how and when you use jargon, so you build more trust with your audience.
The pros and cons of jargon
Jargon can be a great tool to showcase knowledge or a communication shortcut within specific audiences. However, jargon doesn’t always make sense to everyone. It can also come across as exclusionary, untrustworthy, or robotic.
Instead of reducing communication barriers, jargon can create them. In fact, 83% of senior global marketing professionals thought excessive jargon added complexity to the digital-marketing landscape, a NewBase survey found.
Jargon can also highlight knowledge gaps and a lack of experience. According to Harvard Business Review, less experienced academics use more jargon than their more experienced counterparts. The implication is that overusing jargon reveals insecurity and a lack of knowledge.
This is not to say that you should eliminate the use of jargon. Instead, consider the context alongside the following pros and cons.
- When used correctly, jargon can illustrate that you are an industry insider with the knowledge and skills that provide insights and solutions.
- Jargon can also express specificity around technical issues and topics. Sometimes a project actually is rocket science, and it may take jargon to reach liftoff.
- Jargon can be vague and confusing. Consider a scenario where someone in your audience has to look up an unfamiliar term. Doing this may disrupt their attention and can result in miscommunication if they don’t find the right definition. This is common with acronyms.
- For people who have different levels of linguistic skill, jargon is a barrier to accessibility and understanding.
- Jargon can come across as pretentious or even manipulative—hurting trust, culture, productivity, and morale.
Examples of jargon by industry
Health care: HMO, PPO, value-based purchasing, subsidized coverage
Tech: UI, CSS, sunset, data mining, Edge
Law: Tort, indictable offense, negotiable instrument, exhibit
Marketing: SEO, PPC, CAC, MQL, impressions, CTA, CTR
Sales: Bant, BOFU, MOFU, TOFU, prospect, SQL, sandbagging
Human resources: Attrition, broadbanding, behavioral competency, KRA
Customer support: SLA, FCRR, API, omnichannel, CSAT, NPS
7 ways to reduce jargon in your business communication
To keep your teams working efficiently and improve communication, here are seven tips to help you and your team communicate clearly and authoritatively to your audience—without jargon.
1 Know your audience
Consider your audience’s level of expertise. Certain terms won’t make sense if your audience doesn’t work in your industry. So use plain language for people who aren’t in your field. When communicating with peers, your shared knowledge often makes jargon more appropriate.
2 Listen, learn, and mirror
Whether in customer reviews or online chats, what your audience says suggests how they want to be spoken to. Use these forums to mine for and mirror the most appropriate language to use.
3 Ask for clarification
When you encounter jargon and you’re unsure what it means, search out the meaning online, ask a colleague, or let the writer know you’re unfamiliar with the term. Sometimes we’re moving fast, or we’re so close to our message we don’t realize we’ve used jargon as a shortcut or secret handshake.
4 Measure your tone
You can uncover your communication style with the Grammarly Business tone detector and brand tones for your teams and enterprise. Your weekly analytics reports share insights about your communication quality, accuracy, and top tones. So you can examine how formal, informative, or (eek) egocentric you might sound if you often communicate with jargon.
5 Communicate inclusively
According to Harvard Business Review, inclusive leaders adapt messages to an audience’s needs, values, and interests. The people who read your report, email, or chat thread come to the conversation with their own set of experiences. Be prepared to communicate with the words, sentence styles, and examples that will be meaningful to them.
6 Be yourself
Too much jargon can feel cold and impersonal, almost robotic. Coworkers and customers will find it refreshing when you communicate with candor. Be straightforward, write as you speak, and watch trust grow.
7 Check yourself
One way to make sure you have the right language mix is by self-editing, then reviewing your writing with outsiders. Ask them if anything is unclear and if the jargon is distracting.
You can also turn to Grammarly Business and reduce jargon with custom style guides that reflect your brand’s voice, branded terms, and communication standards. Your entire team can write with confidence and authority on complicated topics—without losing your audience.
You can also use Grammarly Business to create a snippet library, so everyone on your team can embrace the exact words and phrases your teams need to communicate effectively.
Level up and reduce jargon
It can be easy to fall into the “jargon trap,” but using simpler, straightforward language will ensure everyone understands your message.
Help your team avoid jargon and turn even your most complex communication into a competitive advantage with Grammarly Business. To learn how your entire team can communicate with more clarity, confidence, and authority, contact us to request a demo or upgrade your team now.