Note from Sarah: This article was originally sent via my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers receive essay style pieces like this before anyone else. Click here to subscribe!
If, like me, your world has a lot of niche-y language, you may find that it’s easy to slip into industry speak. Which is kind of okay if your audience is strictly business to business.
But if you’re speaking to anyone with more general knowledge, you’re going to run into trouble with jargon eventually. I “collect” stories about this to share with clients, since it’s such a common issue, and here’s my new favorite that I came across.
As I’ve mentioned a time or a hundred, my puppy and I have gotten really into the dog sports world, specifically positive reinforcement training for things like Rally Obedience etc. As a result, I’ve found myself in several deeply nerdy Facebook groups with people who are actually professional dog trainers. One person recently posted a photo from a lovely article from her local newsletter about her upcoming “Recall” class.
What’s recall in the dog world? Training your dog to come when called!
What did the journalist writing the story think it meant? Improving your dog’s memory skills!
So, this poor trainer was using the term “recall” during the interview and led the reporter down the wrong path. How many people would think, “My dog needs to improve her memory!” and run and sign up for her class? Maybe some but it’s not like we’re playing Trivial Pursuit with our dogs! On the other hand, if she’d used the verbiage, “Teach your dog to come when called,” there’d likely be a ton of excited customers who deal with that very common problem daily looking for more information and potentially becoming students. The person likely literally lost money because she used jargon. And we’ve all done it! I know I have!
What’s obvious to us who are “in it” all the time is deeply inobvious to our audience.
You can get in clear trouble like in this example, but it can also be more nuanced. I use the term “landing page,” for example, all the time. Folks in the online marketing world know exactly what I mean by that. Do you? Probably kinda sorta? Maybe? What about “Sale Page”? Or “Conversion Optimization”?
At best, you may confuse folks and they’ll ask for you to define your terms. But it’s also likely they’ll feel alienated (not good) or worse yet, they may not find you at all because they’ve search for terms using natural language and you’ve not used the language real people are searching for.
Has jargon seeped into your every day language when you’re talking to your audience? Do you they understand what you mean? Are you absolutely positive?