Cut the Jargon

Karl R. LaPan President & CEO, The NIIC

Have you ever read a blog or company website and couldn’t easily make sense of the message? That is “business speak” at its worst. Jargon is so common in our world that plain English seems like the exception to the rule. We’ve become used to expressions and buzzwords that didn’t exist 10 or 15 years ago.

  • We don’t have the bandwidth right now to complete this project.
  • We need the buy-in from executive leadership.
  • She employs an out-of-the-box approach.
  • We are streamlining our operation to better optimize our divisional synergies.

These are some examples of typical mumbo-jumbo in the modern corporate world. While some might think loading up an article with buzzwords can help their cause, the fact remains that it has an opposite effect. Effective communicators know this and try to avoid falling into this trap.

Why? Language is supposed to connect not marginalize people. When done right, words are powerful tools that can motivate and inspire action. However, the words you choose when addressing a colleague or prospective client could work against you. Jargon can be unintelligble words and sentences that distract from the key point or call to action you are making. You might “lose” the person before you even break through the surface-and that’s a shame. An exceptional brand experience needs approachability.

Relationships, the currency of business, are formed when people feel like they can relate to other people or brand personas. However, when business people use jargon, they run the risk of making people feel sidelined because they can’t follow or engage in the conversation. And no one wants to feel like their intelligence is being insulted or belittled. (This is not a good feeling when you are trying to do rapport building.)

The challenge is to think about word choice differently. Simplicity in language does not have to mean your brand is unsophisticated. You can skip the jargon and still come across as professional. Jargon can come across as over-compensating for a weakness or insecurity. You have a strong brand, so why detract from it with language that only adds noise?

Remember: You’re doing business with people. Write in ways that form a real connection or bond with people, and you’ll win the communications game.

At times, I am guilty as charged. I have some fall back words that I like to use. These include core competencies, optimization, ROI, ownership and best-in-class.

What words or phrases could you do without? What are your best examples of mumbo-jumbo? Share your thoughts in the comments.


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