Oblivious in the Jargon of Good and Evil

Recently, my copy review group was picking apart a sales letter. When we came to the term “buyer’s journey” we stopped and had to ask ourselves, is this jargon?

Usually we know jargon when we see it. But this time not everyone was in agreement. (I almost typed “not on the same page,” but…you know.)

Given how contemptuous we are of jargon, this is important.

Could we be oblivious to our use of jargon? Are there some pointers we can use to tell what’s jargon from what are good descriptive words?

A Google search on “how to tell jargon” led me to some interesting points of view.

Pia Silva describes jargon as words and phrases “that are hollow, shallow, or devoid of any real meaning.” She calls it “lazy,” and says that you should aim to replace it by writing out in words what you really mean.

Belinda Weaver finds that there are right times to use jargon—for instance, when you are writing to exclude people who aren’t in the know, or when you need to use the special language of your readers. To Belinda, it comes down to knowing the audience you are writing for.

Clearly, there is good and bad jargon. Words like “operationalize” and “recontextualize” are vague and could mean many things. “Buyer’s journey” is a precise thing to B2B audiences—and it’s even visually appealing.

We can be smart about using jargon.

And if you need to learn an industry’s jargon fast, check out these Lifehacker tips from Thursday Bram.