In my experience I’ve found that people who overuse jargon are usually guilty of one of three things;
- they’re compensating for their overall lack of knowledge on a given subject;
- they’re trying to establish an unspoken superiority over someone by bamboozling them with mysterious and complex-sounding terms;
- they’re just full of hot air.
Whichever one of these it turns out to be (it could be all three), there’s always a negative outcome as it’s essentially going against what communication should be about – it’s completely repressive of information and understanding.
Poorly judged jargon in everyday communication is bad enough, but in marketing copywriting it’s unacceptable 90% of the time.
If you’re writing some genuinely technical product specification then yes, of course you’re going to reference some genuinely technical terms, that’s fine as it’s necessary. Also, if you’re sure that your target audience is familiar with the terms you’re using, then again, go for it. However if you’re writing sales copy for a product or service that doesn’t have just one type of target reader or any technical aspects then there’s absolutely no reason to employ jargon terms – in fact, it’s likely to kill your copy.
It’s the job of the copywriter to engage the reader, introduce an offering and explain the relevant aspects in order to encourage a positive reaction. This is the key target in every single copy job, with no exceptions. This goal is achieved by maintaining clarity throughout, and making the reader feel that they’re being informed. Overuse of jargon goes completely against these aims, and can result in confusion, negativity and doubt – three things that will never produce the results you’re after.
Microsoft Word thesaurus (I know, I know, hardly the bastion of language – but it backs my point up here, ok?) suggests “gobbledygook” as an alternative word for “jargon”, which neatly underlines how jargon should be treated by a copywriter – with extreme caution.
So, keep your copy clean and clear to get the results you need. If you find yourself reaching for jargon to express yourself then you may well be falling into one of the three categories mentioned at the start of this blog entry… and I know you’re not guilty of any of those.