TCJ StaffComment

Pardon Me?: Avoiding Corporate Jargon

TCJ StaffComment
Pardon Me?: Avoiding Corporate Jargon

"synergistically formulate error-free leadership"

"professionally fabricate principle-centered customer service"

"uniquely target fully researched web-readiness platforms"

"enthusiastically enhance B2C clouds"

"monotonically revolutionize media with outside the box thinking"

Sound impressive? Of course, but sadly none of these statements mean anything. In fact, they were all created using Rivier University's "Corporate Jargon Generator."

Parody aside, how many times have we all seen these quizzical little phrases sprinkled into emails or marketing communications? It's an easy way to fill space and polish up mundane tasks to appear more professional, however, the sad truth is that the veneer is thin. Anyone worth their salt can see right through this smokescreen and ask, "Okay, but what do you really mean?"

The more specialized or nebulous the industry, the higher tendency professionals have to include their internal jargon in their communications. It's a terrible habit that can clutter your emails and confuse your audience. However, there are a few easy steps you can take to be more relatable and understandable in your work communications and avoid, "a cross-narrative dissonance between your target demos and your multi-layered copy-write."


Know Your Audience and Scale Complexity

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The first step is simply recognizing who you are talking to. Seems easy at first, but placing yourself in your audience's shoes and establishing how much they already know can be difficult. Whether you are drafting marketing materials or an email, your intended audience should always be in the back of your mind. But what if your audience is way too broad?

The best "hack" around this dilemma is to scale the complexity of your content based around the subject matter. Think of it as a funnel — start off broad and then gradually get more and more complex. The majority of readers should be able to understand the main premise, while just a few readers will in-depth, insider knowledge on the subject you're addressing.


Make it Simple and Avoid Acronyms

If a doctor is giving you a diagnosis, they don’t use acronyms, Latin names, or gloss over complex processes. It's usually a clear, straight-forward explanation of the issue and what steps will be taken to address or correct it. This same principle applies to your work emails: not everyone is up to speed on what a CRM, OEM, or BOM is.

A good rule of thumb is if you are speaking to someone outside of your industry, or someone who may not be up-to-speed on your industry's lexicon, imagine you are explaining this to your parents or a neighbor for the very first time. The key is to keep it simple and concise.


Jargon TCJ Blog Post

Don't Over Do It

Being said, a common trap is appearing condescending or patronizing by underestimating your audience's understanding of a particular issue. A correct tone is nearly impossible to capture through text alone without excessive punctuation or targeted adjectives. Try to use phrases like, "as you know," "to confirm," or "making sure we are the same page," to soften your message. Moreover, frequently using personal pronouns ("I," "you," "me," etc.) can reduce the cold professionalism of your text, while also dramatically increasing the readability of your content for the broadest audience.

Overall, these are only a small handful of the ways to keep your content clear and concise for any audience. However, nothing beats sending a draft copy to a colleague or trusted loved one, and asking "does this make sense?"