Junk the Jargon?


One of the main responsibilities I have here at RocketWheel is writing scripts for the videos we produce. It’s a highly collaborative process between the client, the animation team, and me.

Every industry has it’s own special jargon. This isn’t a bad thing per se because jargon can be an effective way to communicate with people in the same industry. Where jargon gets problematic is when it’s overused to the point where it loses any real meaning or influence.

Two articles, written three years apart, have made me examine my use of jargon and I hope it does the same thing for you.

Ann Handley, one of the foremost thinkers on digital marketing, reminds us in this post that context is everything. We need to know if we’re using certain words to show we understand our client’s world or if it’s just easier to not look for a better word or phrase.

Forbes published a list of the “most annoying, pretentious and useless business jargon” back in 2012 and the list is still relevant today. I was dismayed to see many words I’ve used in scripts, or clients have pushed for in scripts, on this list, including, “Scalable”, “Best Practice”, “Leverage”, “Drill Down” and “Empower”.

It’s not that these words are invalid; they are just overused to the point of becoming irrelevant. Running close behind these words are two phrases that I’m hearing and seeing much too often: “Paradigm Shifting” and “Disruptive Technology”.

Aside from overuse, the main reason that these phrases bother me so much is that they seem to ooze hubris. All clients love their products or services, as they should, but a little perspective is needed. For the most part, a client’s product or service isn’t solving global conflicts or curing a disease.

So, do we have to junk the jargon completely? I doubt that is realistic or completely necessary. But what we can do is promise ourselves that we’ll start being more conscious of the words we use and why. This self-reflection can only make our business and personal communications more truthful and powerful. And who doesn’t need more of that?

About the author: Kelly Reiterman is the lead copywriter and content producer at RocketWheel.  She disseminates information from creative briefs, marketing materials and client conversations into crisp, understandable and engaging copy.

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