April 27, 2022 (Updated: January 26, 2024)
Some businesses crowd their content assets with a lot of jargon. From promotional blogs and eBooks to newsletters and sales pages, we’re bound to see some jargon in content. After all, it makes a brand sound smarter, right? Not necessarily. Even though using professional language in your content can help your brand embody more sophistication, there are plenty of times you’ll want to avoid it. This guide covers the pros and cons of using jargon in content and the situations in which you’d use or avoid it.
Jargon refers to words or expressions that describe topics and ideas in specific industries or professions. It’s often used to shorten longer phrases (and let’s be honest — to impress your audience) rather than inform them. Though people within an industry might understand it, a larger, more general audience might not.
For instance, an article about content marketing might use the term KPI, which stands for key performance indicator. Though that term is common in the business and communications industries, readers from outside these fields might not know the term describes numerical measurements for tracking progress and performance.
Jargon and professional language are sometimes interchangeable, depending on how you use them. This is evident in content marketing, where you’ll see some writers use terms such as search engine optimization (SEO), call-to-action (CTA), or pay-per-click (PPC). Those industry terms are examples of professional language that often appear when discussing content marketing and its various strategies. But if your brand uses only the acronyms with no additional explanation, the professional language can quickly turn into jargon.
To ensure this doesn’t happen, it’s helpful to give the reader a short definition of the term the first time it’s mentioned in a piece of content. For example, you might define SEO on the first mention in a top-of-funnel resource for budding marketers. By defining what SEO is, the content becomes more accessible to a wider audience, making it professional language, not jargon.
Read more about it: Your Guide to Uncovering Your Brand Voice
Here are some advantages to using jargon in your content:
Though some audiences might prefer jargon-free content, using it can help add value to the products or services you’re talking about. Consider an automotive content company talking about used cars. The common term “used car” is easy to understand, but it’s a little mundane, maybe even off-putting. Replacing the term with jargon like “previously owned vehicle” makes the product sound more interesting and sellable.
Other examples include companies like Starbucks that use terms like “tall” and “grande” to replace common words like “small” and “medium” for its sizing. It’s an iconic part of the company’s branding, plus the jargon adds a layer of excitement for customers. They might find additional value in what they’re buying because it sounds more luxurious, or they feel more prestigious or professional themselves by learning and understanding the industry jargon.
When your brand uses jargon in its content, you’re displaying your membership to a larger business community. Think of it like writing for a small-town newspaper or publication. When the writer uses street names or references local businesses, they’re displaying their knowledge of the community about which they’re writing.
It’s similar when you’re addressing people from a certain industry. If you’re sharing an article about content marketing best practices, then other content marketers may trust that your brand understands the field and has something knowledgeable to say about the topic.
Using jargon can also signal brand authority and expertise. If readers see your brand uses jargon confidently, they might feel more inclined to keep reading or watching your content, even if they don’t know what the jargon means. They may think that by continuing to engage with your content, they can pick up the jargon meaning in context.
Showing authority garners more trust for your brand, which encourages more engagement with your content. Over time, building authority like this can increase your reach and customer loyalty.
Here are some drawbacks to using jargon in your content:
Though there are cases where jargon builds trust within a community, that’s not always the outcome. Sometimes when businesses use jargon in content too much, audiences become ambivalent about the company. That is to say, the level of trust customers place in your company can be influenced by the type of language and tone present in your content.
The University of Munster and New York University conducted studies on the effects of jargon and how readers perceive it. In both studies, the results showed when a writer used a lot of jargon in their content, people thought the information was less credible. When people wrote statements in plain, understandable language, the readers were more likely to believe and trust what they were saying.
To determine whether using jargon for your content raises or lowers trust with clients, consider doing audience research. Poll your clients and followers for their feedback in your newsletter or on social media. Then, apply the info to improve your content approaches, including tone, brand voice, and language.
Whether you’re writing a piece of content or you’re talking with a client, making a connection is important to completing a sale. Sometimes, when you use jargon, you put up a barrier to that connection. If you’re talking to a client who doesn’t understand marketing and has no interest in learning, you’re probably not going to discuss topics like SEO and KPIs. Instead, you might talk about how your services can increase trust in their brand and lead to more sales.
If your clients aren’t using jargon in their searches, Google might not display your content to them. For instance, say someone wanted to know more about their website’s traffic. Instead of searching “how to improve my SEO” or “how to improve my website’s traffic” they might search “how to get more views on my website.”
Using simple language can help increase your search results and create content that your customers can find more easily. Using jargon in your content can hinder your search traffic and make it more difficult to reach your intended audience.
Related reading: How To Use Social Media To Drive Web Traffic
The most important thing you can do when deciding on if you should use jargon in your content is to know your audience. If your brand’s audience trusts you when you use industry jargon, then use it in your content.
But if you’re trying to increase your client outreach or expand your offerings to sell your products to people who might not know a lot about your field, avoid using excessive jargon in your blogs and articles.
If you’re writing content for a general audience, it might be helpful to avoid certain jargon. But it’s also helpful to avoid other types of language too, such as:
Buzzwords are words and phrases that convey popular, timely ideas. Unlike jargon, people may use certain buzzwords no matter their industry.
Some of these buzzwords you’ve likely heard, including: “groundbreaking,” “thought leader,” “holistic,” “synergy,” and “touch base.” Though some buzzwords help convey big ideas using fewer words, not everyone understands what they mean. Using buzzwords can have the same effect as using jargon in content, which could help or hinder depending on your audience.
Slang includes informal words and phrases that come from a particular era or social group. The words used in slang may make content more conversational and also increase engagement with certain audiences.
However, slang can also date your content, keeping it from being evergreen. Evergreen content stays relevant longer compared to trending content. After a few years, slang may become less popular and stop readers from engaging with your content as much as they used to.
Idioms are phrases that have additional figurative meanings outside of their literal meanings. For example, the phrase “raining cats and dogs” means it’s raining heavily or steadily. Idioms and colloquialisms can help your audience connect with content because they sound more conversational.
But just like jargon, some readers might not know what the idioms mean. Idioms can also prevent an international audience from understanding your content. That’s because they might not make sense when translated into another language.
Here’s a list of tips to help you write for your audience without the use of jargon or buzzwords:
When you identify your audience, you have a better understanding of how to communicate with them. That’s because you know more about the language they use and the best way to attract their attention. A great way to identify your audience is by reading their comments. Look at the feedback customers leave on your social media accounts. Examine some of the product reviews they leave on your website. Study their language and see if there are any common words or phrases that they use.
Another way to improve your content is by using buyer personas to paint a clearer picture of the types of customers who are most likely to buy your products or services. These profiles will include information like education level, career, and reasons for purchasing products or services. As you develop personas, you can have a better understanding of how your customers might talk or communicate. From knowing them better, you understand if they’d use a more complex vocabulary and how they’d like to learn new information.
As you develop content, focus on the simplest way to talk about something. If you’re using fancy or complex vocabulary, the content might confuse your readers. When you use short and simple statements, your brand can communicate the information you need to share more clearly. This helps increase the readers’ satisfaction and helps them engage easily with your content.
If you need to use professional language in your content writing, it’s important to make sure that you’re using it correctly. When you use jargon in content incorrectly, it can dissuade audiences from engaging with it. Tricky language can also lower customers’ trust in your brand. As you use industry terms, check their definitions and make sure you’re using each word accurately.
If you’re not sure about the definition, consider asking for advice from someone else in the industry. Also, consider writing the content without the professional language and see if it’s still understandable.
The best way to ensure your content is understandable and helpful is to ask for the readers’ feedback. When you publish new articles or blogs, add a section at the bottom where readers can leave reviews or comments. As they respond, you can see what type of content your audience prefers and the style of writing they like to read.
It’s also helpful to send out surveys. Create a survey with a list of questions about the content you show your audience. Ask them how they feel about the writing and the professional language you use. If your overall audience appreciates your use of jargon, keep using it. If they find your content a little confusing, consider using less jargon in your writing.
Sometimes it might be appropriate to use jargon in your content writing. But avoiding it can help make your blogs and articles more engaging and understandable to your audience. The best thing to remember is that if you use jargon in your content, it’s helpful to define it for a general audience. This can help increase your customer outreach and the trustworthiness of your blogs and articles.
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