Some businesses crowd their blogs, articles, and newsletters with a lot of jargon. After all, it’s supposed to make your content, and your brand by extension, sound smarter, right? Not always. Though using professional language in your content can help your brand sound more sophisticated, there are some reasons to avoid it. In this guide, we discuss topics like:
Image via Unsplash by @dtbosse
Jargon is words or expressions used to describe topics and ideas in specific industries or professions. It’s often used 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 marketing industry, readers from outside the field might not know the term describes quantifiable measurements used to evaluate success.
Jargon and professional language can be the same thing, or different, depending on how you use them. For example, when discussing content marketing, some writers might 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. If your brand uses just the acronyms with no additional explanation, the professional language quickly turns into jargon.
To ensure that 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, your writers could include a sentence like this in copy:
By defining what SEO is, the content becomes more accessible to a wider audience, making it professional language, not jargon.
Here are some pros to using jargon in your content:
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 may signal 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 can also help make your brand seem more trustworthy, which encourages viewers to read even more content that you produce and share it with others. That can increase your client outreach and make your readers more loyal to your brand as well.
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 or grande to replace common words like small and medium for its sizing. The jargon adds a layer of excitement for the customer. 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.
Here are some cons 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 their content, audiences are less trusting of the company. 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. CopyPress runs polls like these on our LinkedIn page to better understand the climate and current trends in marketing as told by real professionals.
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. For instance, if you’re talking to a client who doesn’t understand marketing, and has no interest in learning, someone who just wants to hire a competent company for the job, you might not discuss SEO and KPIs. Instead, you’d 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.
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.
A great way to learn more about your audience and what they like is to look at who’s reading your competitor’s content. CopyPress offers a free content analysis report to show you more about how your pieces compare to your top three competitors. Request your results today and learn what your audience wants to see in their content.
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. Examples of buzzwords include: “groundbreaking,” “thought leader,” and “circle back.” Though some buzzwords help convey big ideas using fewer words, not everyone understands what they mean. Using buzzwords in your content can provide the same pros and cons as using jargon, which could help or hinder your content depending on your audience.
Slang are words or phrases that are informal and derive 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, stopping it from becoming evergreen. Evergreen content is that which stays relevant for 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 steps 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 learn how to write for your audience is through customer personas, or fictional representations of customers who are most likely to buy your products or services. They 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 makes it so they feel more engaged with your content. For instance, let’s say you’re writing about search engine optimization (SEO). The sentence, “SEO is the function of optimizing your website and content to increase its organic search traffic and garner attention,” isn’t the best definition for a general audience.
Instead, consider writing the sentence like this: “Search engine optimization (SEO) is the act of improving your website or content to increase its visibility and attract new customers to your business.” This sentence is a much simpler definition that replaces a lot of the technical jargon and fancy vocabulary to make the statement more understandable.
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 or professional language incorrectly, it can disengage your readers from the content. It can also lower their 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.
Read More About Copy