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Jargon busters


A pet hate of most people is jargon.

Nationwide Building Society released some research in September 2015 revealing that more people understood text speak than financial jargon.

79% of people know that LOL means Laugh out Loud, while only 66% know that PAYE stands for Pay As You Earn.

Just 61% of people know that ISA stands for Individual Savings Account, but 64% know that WTF stands for What the … *ahem*!


Avoid jargon

For me, as a copywriter, what was most surprising was that Nationwide’s take on it was exasperation that people didn’t understand these terms. On Point’s response would be: Avoid jargon like the plague. Don’t be upset that 34% of people don’t know that ATM stands for Automated Telling Machine. If they know it’s the hole in the wall from which they get their money, that is fine. Better still, call it a cash machine!

It’s fair to say that financial services as a sector has a particularly bad reputation for jargon. But whatever industry you are in, it’s easy to forget that everyday terms you use may actually be unintelligible jargon to your customers.


An aside – origin (jargon: etymology) of word ‘copywriting’

(On occasion, we are painfully aware that the term ‘copywriting’ is actually quite jargony! When introducing myself professionally I often say “I’m a copywriter – I do the ‘words’ part of marketing” in order to nip in the bud any thought that I may be something to do with ©.

For the record, ‘copy’ comes from the Old French copie meaning: a written account or record, which came from the Medieval Latin copia meaning: reproduction or transcript, which came from Latin copia meaning: plenty. Enough said on that. It’s still jargon).


How to avoid using jargon and why it helps you as well as your customers

Anyway, the more jargon that slips into your business communications, the more of a barrier you are putting between you and your customers. So it’s good discipline to think: Would your Granny [or insert other stereotype – sorry Grannies!] understand it? as you write. If the answer is ‘No’, think of a clearer way of making your point. As so many businesses use jargon, this is a great way to differentiate yourself from the herd – The company that speaks plain English.


Is jargon ever acceptable?

The key point is to tailor your writing to you audience. So if you are writing to the general public, it’s best to avoid jargon as much as possible. However, if you are writing to a niche audience, and you perhaps want to convey your expertise, then jargon may actually be appropriate in those circumstances.


Need to de-jargon your marketing material?

A good copywriter will scythe through jargon. As well as benefiting from their mastery of language, bringing in an outside copywriter also helps in that they are one step back from your organisation – The copywriter is not so caught up in the everyday lingo to begin with. For help de—jargoning call 0117 244 0116 or email [email protected]