As a former journalist, I was trained to avoid jargon at all costs when telling a story.
Jargon creates unnecessary confusion.
It makes stories inaccessible to large audiences.
And it makes readers zone out.
What’s the point of writing that thousand-word how-to guide when readers can’t get past the first line?
Yet in the corporate world, jargon has taken over like a garden infested with aphids.
You’ll recognize the corporate speak. It’s the words no one really likes but everyone pretends to like.
You know the ones—‘deliverables’, ‘competitive advantage’, and my least favourite (and probably the most dehumanizing) ‘human capital’.
That last one makes me shudder.
It’s the kind of stuff that management consultants spew to sound fancy (no hate on consultants, you all are wonderful and hardworking geniuses).
Even I’ve fallen victim to the corporate speak.
I’ve been spouting ‘thought leadership’ ever since I picked up that term in a strategy course. Hell, I even use it in one of my LinkedIn job descriptions.
But I digress.
In the realm of content marketing, when you’re creating content, you want your audience to stick around.
How can you do that?
One of the best ways is to write, or talk, in a conversational tone. Think about how often you use the term ‘deliverables’ in conversation. Not much, I hope.
Writing conversationally is easier said than done. The easier the writing sounds, the harder it is to write. Usually.
Still, it’s a skill every content marketer should have. And anyone can learn. Start reading magazines like The New Yorker. Or newspapers like the Toronto Star.
The world of journalism offers us content marketers a way to tell stories that are easily understood, no matter who our audience is.
I often hear the argument that in the tech or subscription-as-a-service space, audiences can handle complex acronyms or jargon.
I’m sure many understand the jargon. But that doesn’t mean the content is enjoyable to read. And when it’s not enjoyable, most people will jump onto something that’s more interesting.
And between TikTok and BuzzFeed, there’s lots out there that’s more interesting.
If you want another reason to avoid jargon, CBS reported in 2011 that people who use business jargon are often seen as liars. This is based on a study out of New York University.
"When you want to seem believable and trustworthy, concrete language is the way to go,” CBS reported, noting these two sentences. Give them a read.
1. Hamburg is the European record holder concerning the number of bridges.
2. In Hamburg, one can count the highest number of bridges in Europe.
“These sentences mean entirely the same thing but when asked to rate their truthfulness, people judge the second more highly,” according to CBS.
Jargon doesn’t make you sound authoritative. It makes you sound less trustworthy, at least according to this study.
So, think twice the next time you start off that story with an ego-boosting acronym.
You’re not doing anyone any favours.
I help companies grow by telling their stories.