Remove jargon – copywriting tip #6

Jargon in this case means terminology that is particular to your industry. So jargon is any kind of language that might not be understood by your reader.

But, to be honest, when I think of jargon I’m really thinking of something much worse: management speak. Things like:Buzzword Burnout

  • going forward
  • deliverables
  • paradigm
  • eventualities
  • synergies
  • incentivise.

These are awful, evil words that you should only use if you want to obscure your meaning and sound pompous. Copywriting is about communicating. You can’t communicate if you hide behind indecipherable language and strange words that don’t really mean anything.

Always consider your writing from your reader’s point of view. Will they know what “offshoring” is?

(Picture courtesy of Raspberry Tart)


  1. Nice post. I agree with the spirit of it.

    One thing though, sometimes the words you list as evil are exactly the kind of words required. It all depends on the goals of the business broadcasting and the nature of the audience. For instance, when writing a business plan or end-of-year report for shareholders of a bank.

    Still, nice work Leif.

    Comment by Madhava M Bailey — July 16, 2008 @ 7:55 am

  2. Hmmm… so you’ve been tempted by the dark side?

    I hear what you’re saying Madhava, but I think we should all think differently about communications – and that includes “serious”, “heavyweight” tracts like business plans and annual reports. Just because a document is important I don’t think it should be inflated or pompous or use language that isn’t ordinary or every-day. I think honest, frank and clear language can be a refreshing alternative, and all the more powerful for it.

    What are we all so afraid of? Why do we have to cling to officious language when something is important? Surely we can be honest without being flippant?

    Big-sounding words are often very empty, whereas the more everyday language can be direct, strong and full of meaning.

    I would like to see corporations speaking to clients, shareholders and their employees as they would speak to their neighbour: honest, open, frank and friendly.

    Comment by Leif Kendall — July 24, 2008 @ 9:13 pm

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