Is Jargon Ruining Your Message?

Last week, my wife nipped to the Co-op to grab a pint of milk. As is her way, she got talking to the teenager on the till. It turns out that he’s studying for a marketing degree at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Oh,” replied my better half. “What a coincidence. My husband’s a freelance copywriter.

The student stared back at her blankly.

What, so he’s into, like, stopping me downloading music?”

My first reaction to hearing this story was to tut loudly, shake my head, and wonder what the lecturers at MMU are like if they can’t drum the difference between a copywriter and copyright law into their students. My second was to share the story on LinkedIn, where various other copywriters tutted loudly, shook their heads, and agreed with my comments.

My third reaction was to open my AdWords account and make damn sure that I was bidding on terms like “website writer” and “content writer” instead of just terms containing copywriter. Because I realised that I’ve been making the same mistake that business bloggers make all over the web.

I’d assumed that other people are familiar with the jargon I use.

Jargon Isn’t Accessible

The word copywriter. It’s not really jargon, is it? It’s just a job title.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. Especially when you’re so familiar with certain terms that they roll off your tongue or onto the page without a second thought.

But just because you’re familiar with a term doesn’t mean your audience will be. And using unfamiliar terms instantly puts a barrier between you and your reader. If you’re creating a page to convince the reader, or a post that you want people to read and share widely, it needs to be accessible.

And that means simple explanations of concepts even the most uninformed reader can understand.

Jargon Doesn’t Make You Sound Knowledgeable

Familiarity isn’t the only reason we fall back on jargon in our posts. If you’re trying to sound authoritative, it’s only natural that you want to sound clever.

Unfortunately, our idea of “sounding clever” means imitating caricatures of clever people we’ve seen on TV. Which leads to shrill, Lisa Simpson-esque content full of terms that no layperson is ever going to understand.

Unlike the Saturn V Inspiral Carpets record, which is inexplicable.

Calling a spade an “ergonomically-designed earth relocation device” doesn’t make you sound clever. It makes you sound pretentious.

You know what’s clever? Explaining difficult concepts in language any child can understand.

The cleverest thing I’ve seen in a while is this diagram that explains how the Saturn V lunar rocket worked using only the 1,000 most common words in the English language.

If you can explain even the most difficult, intricate part of your business, industry or opinion in a way that any potential reader can understand, you’re going to come across as far more informed and authoritative than anyone who has to pepper their weak arguments with jargon and technical terminology.

Write More Effectively – Assume Your Readers Know Nothing

That’s the key to jargon-free blogging and writing. Assume your reader knows nothing about your industry or the way you work, and find a way to explain your point to them in an understandable way.

If you can do that, you’ll find a much wider audience. And that means more chances to attract new business. Which is what your content should be doing in the first place.


For more advice on creating better marketing messages and blog posts, make sure you grab a copy of my free ebook.

Email me my free copy of “Faster, Stronger, Better – a Beginner’s Guide to Digital Copywriting!

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