Business Jargon – Don’t let it cost you customers

Posted on July 25, 2018 in Copywriting

‘Hard Brexit’, ‘Max-fac’, ‘Passporting’ … What do they mean, and do they mean the same to all of us? Hum.

These Brexit terms are a reminder that using unfamiliar and undefined jargon runs the risk of confusing and annoying customers – as well as being interpreted differently by staff. If you give instructions to ‘reach out’, for example, do you mean speak to, invite to a meeting, or form a partnership with?

And with more and more pressures on people’s time, and Social Media enticing and forcing us to use ‘shorthand’, the use of jargon is undoubtedly escalating. Despite its risks and consequences. So, here are my tips – drawing on my experience of what works.

  1. Paint your audience – As you write, think of someone who characterises your target audience – ideally someone you know well. Imagining they are seated in front of you will help you tune into your audience’s needs, and stick to everyday language.
  2. Ditch your suit – Believe it or not, how you are feeling and how you are dressed will influence your writing’s tone of voice. So, writing in a suit could be the root of your problem.
  3. Find a hero – We absorb the writing styles of what we read, just as children pick up their parents’ accents. If you keep examples of writing styles you want to copy, and read them beforehand, they will rub off on your writing.
  4. Decide your style – Decide on three adjectives you’d like your writing to sound like, and then identify their extremes that you want to avoid (e.g. confident, but not arrogant). Tune your text for your preferences.
  5. Beware of nominalisations (abstract nouns) – It’s common for businesses to use these instead of their verb and adjective equivalents (e.g. notification, to notify; precision, precise) – so ditch them! They make your sentences wordy, unclear and bureaucratic.
  6. Read your text out loud – This is a great way for spotting anything unintelligible. Long sentences, clichés and jargon will leap out at you – for your treatment.

Write clearly, and you won’t pay the cost.