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Understanding Jargon and How to Avoid It

Friday, September 13, 2019 by Gregory Griffin in Business Writing Tips,Speech writing

Have you ever been to a speaking engagement where the speaker throws around phrases and words that go right over your head? Or in a staff meeting where presenter’s vocabulary makes it sound like she’s speaking another language? This is a common practice that distances speakers and their audiences all over the world. This detrimental practice is called jargon.

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, jargon is defined as “words and phrases used by particular groups of people, especially in their work, that are not generally understood.” This includes slang, figures of speech, complicated vocabulary, and other words or phrases that an audience may not be familiar with. Jargon causes speakers to feel distant and uninteresting to a crowd. By using simpler, more commonly understood phrases, you can connect to an audience no matter the topic. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself when preparing for your next speaking engagement that will help you cut down on the jargon and increase your effectiveness.

Would a 7th grader understand you?

Seventh grade is widely considered the most common level of understanding when it comes to complex ideas and phrases. While most people are educated far beyond that, memory of the jargon that is associated with the complex topic your presenting has most likely slipped your audience’s mind by the time they reach their thirties. By approaching every speaking engagement with simplicity as a goal, you can reach further into the minds of your audience and get your ideas across more effectively.

Why am I choosing this word?

People often find themselves using complicated jargon to sound more impressive, but it can frequently have the opposite effect. When you are writing or preparing for a speech or presentation and are deciding whether or not to include a word, ask yourself if you are including it to make the speech better, or to simply make yourself sound smarter. The smartest seeming people are the ones who get their message across, not the ones who confuse the audience.

Is there another word I could use?

While jargon is usually avoidable, sometimes you might not have the choice of whether or not to use a confusing or misleading word. Making the decision to include a word or phrase or not needs to be based on your audience and whether or not there is a better way to put what you are trying to say.

In the end, jargon needs to be refined and questioned during your preparation process no matter what. By asking yourself these questions, you can quickly simplify your speech or presentation to fit any audience you wish. Here at Phenomenal Writing, we understand that every speaking engagement can potentially leave a mark on the audience, and we also understand the process that goes into that. By partnering with us using unnecessary jargon can be a thing of the past.

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