A page from my illustrated copy of The Elements of Style
If there is one thing that transcends all industries, it's jargon. You've all heard it. You've maybe even written it. By the way, how jargon-y sounding is the word "jargon" anyway?
Merriam-Webster has several definitions for jargon.
1a : confused unintelligible languageb : a strange, outlandish, or barbarous language or dialectc : a hybrid language or dialect simplified in vocabulary and grammar and used for communication between peoples of different speech2: the technical terminology or characteristic idiom of a special activity or group3: obscure and often pretentious language marked by circumlocutions and long words
The jargon I'm referring to can often start as definition 2, but really leans more heavily toward definition 3, which often feels just like definition 1. Jargon often annoys us for several reasons: redundancy,too many words (aka wordiness), cloudiness (most often by complicating the sentence structure), and redundancy. Keeping text concise goes a looooong way toward improving your communication and writing skills.
How do you avoid sprinkling jargon into your own work?
- Edit. And then edit again. Until you can't be a mite more concise.
- Read it out loud. In a whisper if you must. Each sentence should be coherent on its own.
- Mix up sentence lengths. Simple sentences are your friend and can help you get the point across. It also keeps things interesting for the reader.
- Ask yourself "is it necessary?" For example, in my previous bullet, I debated "can help" in the second sentence. Can it or does it? In the end I decided "can" is necessary because it doesn't always help.
- Learn proper usage. Sometimes we just don't quite know how to say what we want to say, resulting in wordiness. Some of my favorite resources for language use are the Elements of Style (a classic), Chicago Style Q&A, and Common Errors in English Usage (formerly a website, now a book). Your company or school may have its own style or usage guide or prefer one over another...it never hurts to ask!
- including, but not limited to. "Including" already implies that the list is incomplete, otherwise you'd use "comprising." Redundant.
- in order to. "To" can do the job on its own.
- end result. Redundant.
- due to the fact that. Try "because."
- Unnecessary passive voice. This almost always contributes to wordiness and cloudiness. Note unnecessary--sometimes passive voice works. But usually not.
What is your jargon pet peeve? Are there any jargon-y phrase do you actually like?