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Wednesday, April 11, 2012



Jargon is the  vocabulary particular to a certain profession, trade or group. Amongst the peers of a specific group, it carries great meaning that simplifies and expedites communication. For outsiders, it is meaningless. Almost every profession and trade has its own jargon, from education to electrical engineering to medicine to publishing. Even grammarians have jargon: preposition, predicate, nominative, compound complex, superlative, indirect object . . .

The good thing about jargon is that within a relevant context, it aids exchange of information.

The bad thing about jargon is that some people choose to use it outside of its relevant context. They speak to laypeople in language that only a colleague could interpret. Some people do this because they are unable to translate the jargon into layman's terms. Some people do this because it increases their self-perceived importance. Some people do this because they don't realize that the vocabulary they are using is trade specific. The reasons for misuse of jargon, however, are not as important as the outcome: communication breakdown.

1) Avoid using jargon unless the target audience of what you are writing  includes only readers in the field that uses that vocabulary.

     For example, the following sentence is meant only for techies: This option makes the list command show the interface name, the rule options, and the TOS masks. The packet and byte counters are also listed, with the suffix 'K', 'M' or 'G' for 1000, 1,000,000 and 1,000,000,000 multipliers respectively. (

2) If the use of jargon is unavoidable, provide an explanation of the term or provide significant context clues to the meaning of the term.
     For example:
          One of the determinants for passing 5th grade is the CRCT. The Criterion Referenced Cumulative Test is a standardized test that measures a student's retention of and ability to apply math and language arts skills. Other performance standards, such as classroom grades, teacher recommendations, and periodic benchmark tests are also used for making promotion decisions.

Can you give an example of jargon used in your profession?

Tomorrow: Killing it: A bit about word usage.

This post is brought to you by the April A to Z Blog Challenge. Check back all through April for daily discussions of writing conventions.


Nancy Stewart said...

Hi, Lucy. Really enjoyed this post and your blog in general.

If you've the chance, pop over to mine. I'm the author of the Bella and Britt series for kids.


Janna said...

I worked for in business development for a defense contractor for a while, and had to catch on quickly. RFP (request for proposal) RFI (request for information) ROM (rough order of magnitude) not to mention military and government terms and acronyms.

Laura Eno said...

My husband works for Disney and it's acronym hell to listen to him talk about work. :)

A to Z of Immortals, Myths & Legends

Anonymous said...

Excellent....I spent 20 years in the insurance industry and it was very hard to switch between "insurance speak" and "real people speak" when clients called in.
An example....risk, liability, deductible, PSR, NURC..etc.

Betty Alark said...

Greetings, Lucy!

What a great resource blog! Great information!

Reminds me of school days; however as a writer- a refresher course is always a plus!!

Have a great day!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lucy - I need you .. so I'll be back to read .. I am a complete dummy when it comes to writing conventions and grammar .. so I'll be delighted to read and inwardly digest your thoughts ..

Jargon - yes I've often either had to ask for translations, or ended up losing my thread of thought, when I've brought some jargon into the particular conversation ..

Actually blog, comment, post - are all jargon words aren't they - fine for us .. but many others haven't a clue!!

Thanks for finding me by the way!!

Cheers Hilary

M Pax said...

Great post. Some use of jargon is useful for characterization. But the writer must choose wisely.

Jo said...

Guess I use jargon quite a bit and Hilary you are so right, I say to people I write a blog and they look at me as though I'd gone daft.

SherryE said...

Good post. I'm a musician. There's not a lot of jargon we use. A few things I can think of are, "Playing my ax" (playing my violin), "Doing a gig," (playing for a freelance job), and "match the octave" (make sure you are in tune with the note 8 steps down).

American in Norway said...

Super J word! Popping by from A-Z

Sarah said...

Great A to Z Challenge theme! I haven't had a standard English/grammar class since high school so these posts are a helpful refresher, especially the post on hyphens. I have a bit of a hyphen addiction.


Sarah @ The Writer's Experiment

Nick Wilford said...

My only profession is writing, and well, blogging, haha. But I hate when people use jargon to emphasise that they know all about their subject and, clearly, more than you. I don't care about your stupid little job!

I mean, I wouldn't tell a stranger that I was looking for some CP's to read through my WIP, for example. :)

William Kendall said...

Tom Clancy is a big fan of taking military jargon and ramming it down the throats of his readers, of course...