Quick Editing Tip #1: Watch Your Jargon
by Barbara Behan
Jargon is specialized language that functions as shorthand in a given field or industry.
Jargon is fine in the right context. It plays an important role in helping us communicate with our small, local tribes.
But writers, especially those of us writing for general audiences, need to be careful with jargon. Assuming that others understand our “lingo” is like traveling to another country and assuming the people there speak English.
Sometimes writers pepper their text with specialized language (or overly complex words) in an effort to sound smart. Although tempting, this isn’t a good idea. Readers end up feeling confused, stupid, or left out of the party. Not fun.
It’s satisfying to read something that’s intelligently written, and connect with it. We want to give our readers that experience. We want them to enjoy our writing, and come back for more.
So, who’s your audience? Do you write for computer programmers? Children? Garbage collectors?
We’d do well to match our use of jargon with what we think our audience knows about our subject. If we don’t know who our readers are, or we’re trying to broaden our reach, it’s even more important to err on the side of simplicity.
It’s entirely possible to communicate complex ideas without a lot of specialized words.