Three Steps to Eliminate Jargon |Mary Cullen

Skilled business writing rejects jargon. Yet, industry-specific phrases and buzzwords are very commonly used. Even the best writers can fall into the jargon trap if they’re not careful.

Business writing is notorious for jargon. Fortunately, you can revise jargon out of your text or avoid it in the first place. Sadly, the primary reason business writers use too much jargon is because everyone else is using it. We learn to write by modeling others. There is even a book that addresses this problem, Why Business People Sound Like Idiots.

Meaningless jargon has become so commonplace that the writer fails to perceive the term as jargon. Instead the writer incorrectly sees jargon as an insider-term or in-the-know business dialect. However, this writing ignores the most crucial factor in business writing: the audience.

Jason Fried, the founder of Basecamp and author of Rework, stated,

“Jargon is insecurity.” We parrot the murky and beaten-to-death terms we hear instead of clearly writing real information. To help combat jargon in professional writing we created the Jargon Grader. It’s a simple app that helps you identify and eliminate jargon in your writing. Just paste your text into the application and review the flagged words. Try the Jargon Grader for free [click here].

Once you’ve identified jargon by running it through the Jargon Grader, you know what needs to be eliminated. The best substitute for jargon is always the most specific word or words that depict the concept. “Meaningless jargon has become so commonplace that the writer fails to perceive the term as jargon.” -Mary Cullen

Step One: Include Real Information Your Reader Can Understand Often, we use jargon when the core concept is murky. It’s easier (and lazier) to write, “We’re the leading provider of seamless, integrated, scalable solutions that will monetize your business.” This means nothing. Instead, be certain that there is real information to convey. What is the core concept you’re trying to convey? You must understand this core concept before you can express it with words.

Step Two: Avoid Distorting Verbs Most commonly, the most specific, evocative word to express a business concept is a core verb. Avoid distorting verbs into nouns, especially ending in -ize: incentivize, proceduralize, or dogmatize. Choose a strong, evocative verb that represents the action: Accomplished, distributed, executed, overcame, pioneered, recruited, revived, streamlined, sustained, worked. There are many strong, specific business verbs. Choose these.

Step Three: Replace Cliches Dig for the meaning of the cliche and either eliminate it if it’s

unnecessary or express the real meaning: At the end of the day - omit this because it’s filler only

  • Synergy - working together

  • Low bandwidth - not enough staff to support this

  • Tiger team - skilled, experienced engineers

  • Circle back - discuss later

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Zev Asch