The Guarantee
August 2

Using Jargon: Not Always a Crime

We tell ourselves that the use of clever, intentional phrasing designed to encapsulate thoughts as succinctly as possible is the perfect method for communicating with our audience. But are we telling ourselves the truth?

Jargon is so widespread in business that it has become its own language. If you’ve ever asked others to “buy into” an idea, “think outside the box,” or “drink the Kool-Aid,” you’re “guilty” of jargon. While you’ve probably heard avoiding jargon is a best practice, using jargon isn’t always a crime.

In fact, jargon can be a useful tool in marketing communications. Consider these three tips for navigating buzzwords and phrases in your quest to write copy for your business that delivers the message without annoying the reader.

1. Be Selective. In plain language, jargon is the “speak” of your professional circle. A certain amount of jargon within a group or industry is expected. Part of its appeal is that it abbreviates long, boring explanations. If you’re trying to make a message brief, it can be much easier to describe certain issues in business using jargon.

For example, it is much simpler to say that “people are working in silos” rather than “people are isolating themselves and are not aware of the efforts of others nor are they communicating.”

Using jargon selectively can help you be concise and convey that you are an insider.

2. Strive for Clarity. The problem with jargon is that it can quickly wear out its welcome. In fact, Forbes took to social media to ask its readers to vote for the most annoying examples of business jargon. “Core competency” and “lots of moving parts” were among the top 45.

But the question you should be asking is, “How much is too much?” Sacrificing clarity is too much. Imagine hearing the following statement from a colleague in your office:

“Now that we are thinking outside the box, perhaps we should re-contextualize to get out of the weeds and synergize our efforts on business development. I know if we do some blue sky thinking we can put that horn on a donkey and actually have our unicorn.”

Confusing, right? Nobody wants to read anything chock-full of buzzwords and snappy phrases when plain words work better.

3. Know Your Audience. Make sure you know the difference between jargon and terminology. Gauge your jargon by the level of understanding your audience has about the subject. Different industries have their own technical terminologies that only make sense to people within that industry.

Life without jargon would be like “a day without sunshine” for some of us. The key is to use it judiciously. If you have reservations about the message you are trying to deliver, remember that when it comes to jargon, less is more.

Tricia Warren, Digital Strategist RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy, can be reached at

*A boutique agency with seasoned professionals, RedRover is the only Memphis advertising agency to integrate sales training and coaching with marketing strategy planning and execution. RedRover has a uniquely intense focus on achieving measurable results for its clientele. This Memphis ad agency’s diverse client roster represents nearly every industry vertical in greater Memphis.

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