5 Reasons To Drop Your Industry Jargon From Your Content Marketing

Posted by Brooke Hazelgrove

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For the uninitiated, jargon only confuses and alienates from the topic at hand. Avoid it where you can.What kind of jargon does your profession use in everyday speech? Even if you can't think of any oft-repeated words or phrases, chances are that you've got some. And that's fine - it's perfectly natural to have industry language.

Problem is, when it comes to marketing your business online using content marketing, jargon and industry buzzwords can often end up causing more harm than good for engaging your readers and encouraging leads to purchase from you. Why is this? I have 5 reasons.

Reason 1 - You Alienate Your Audience

The best way to clarify the alienation bit is by example, so hang in there for a moment. In my spare time, I make costumes and props from sci-fi and fantasy worlds. What follows below is a description of the most recent thing I built:

Callandor is a hybrid sword. It features the gentle curve and single-edge blade seen in Japanese katanas, but maintains a western-style hilt with a cross-shaped quillon block. It features a faceted pommel and a relatively wide fuller, which comes almost completely to the bevels of the flat. The faceted sphere is repeated on the quillons of the block, and are finished with two tiny points that run parallel to the blade. The whole piece is designed to look as though it was cut from crystal glass, although in realisation, this was easier to achieve with a two-part epoxy resin casting.

If you're familiar with the terms used to describe swords, then this paragraph might make sense. Chances are though, that I lost you after the first sentence - I deliberately put as much jargon in it as possible. Perhaps you were able to figure out the gist of what was being described, perhaps you had to Google one or two of the weirder words. This isn't what you want for your readers to do.

Your content is, for a lot of your readers and potential customers, your first point of contact. It needs to make sense to your clients when they read it - whether they understand the intricacies of your business or not. If they don't understand you, they have no reason to listen to anything you have to say.

So what do you do when you need to talk about a specific aspect of your industry that is usually rife with jargon?

Explaining what you mean, instead of dropping the word and giving no context, would be the advised course of action. Or present the jargon in a way that would help it immediately make sense. In the above example, it'd require the least amount of explanation if I had supplied a labelled diagram or image for the reader, along with, or instead of, the text description.

Reason 2 - Jargon Varies Across Professions

This is specifically in relation to the notorious TLAs (three-letter acronyms) that crop up in our industries. Thing is, these can mean completely different things to different professions. For example, the acronym FOB can mean 'forward operating base' to someone in the military, but it can also translate to 'free on board' to the freight industry, and 'front of book' to a publisher. If you're a fan of pop-punk music, the acronym has probably also made you think of the band 'Fallout Boy'. Point is, you can mean one thing with your acronym, but it might mean something completely different to your intended audience. It's better to avoid this confusion altogether than having to explain to your older relatives that LOL stands for 'laugh out loud' and not 'lots of love' as they may have initially interpreted.

If you want your content to be communicated clearly and avoid confusion, then you need to either completely drop your acronyms or use your content to explain the term to keep your readers on the same page.

Reason 3 - Many Words Lose Their Meaning

This phenomenon is called semantic satiation. It's when you read the same phrase or word over and over again and as a result, it ceases to have meaning. When you repeat a piece of jargon - which is already difficult for the uninitiated reader to understand - over and over, you lose your audience completely.

Think for a minute of the phrase 'social media guru'. It's the kind of phrase that was only ever going to carry weight as long as readers were impressed by things they didn't understand. We're at a stage of social media marketing now where we've reached a market saturation of 'gurus', and anyone with the title next to their name can quickly earn a raised eyebrow. You want for your readers to understand and be engaged with the content you're writing. As much as you can, avoid using dated or overused phrases - it's impossible to carry meaning with meaningless words.

Reason 4 - Jargon Can Discredit Your Argument

It seems counterintuitive - generally we use industry language to indicate that we know what we're talking about. How can the use of jargon discredit what we have to say?

We need to be able to explain how our professions work without the use of jargon, simply because doing so proves that we understand how that profession works. If I can explain to you how using an inbound marketing model will increase the leads to your website, without using alienating technical terms, it will not only keep your interest (see Reason 1), but it will by extension prove that I understand how inbound marketing actually works, and why it's useful.

If the only way for me to explain a concept is with a set speech, laden with technical language, then there's nothing to say that I'm not just parroting something I read somewhere else. If someone is trying to sell you something by endlessly repeating the same jargon-laden phrases, then they clearly don't understand your needs. If they can't understand your need to understand, then they won't be able to meet your greater needs as a client.

Reason 5 - Jargon Presents A Static View Of Your Profession

The only thing that's constant in this world is change. Sure, your business is going to stay fairly set in what it does, but the way that gets implemented is probably going to change over time.

For example, a mechanic is probably always going to fix cars, but the types of vehicle they repair, the tools they use to work, and the way they liaise with their customers is definitely going to change. Likewise, your profession is going to change over time. Industry jargon, as a language, presents a set way in which events happen, and maintains that this is always the way things will happen, either directly or indirectly.

Consider the 'Y2K' craze that permeated society at the turn of the millennium. 'The millennium bug' concerns were everywhere, as the world speculated over whether or not our computers (which measured years with two digits instead of four) would figure out that 2000 came after 1999 or whether they'd roll over to 1900. While there were some issues that cropped up, it turned out to be far from the Earth-shattering event that hype and speculation would have had us believe.

Nobody in their right minds would think of selling 'Y2K-proof' technology today. It concerns an event that has long-since passed, making this piece of jargon largely irrelevant.

Our language and professions are set to evolve over time. Ensure that the industry language you're using today reflects your profession's willingness to change and adapt in order to meet the ever-changing needs of your customers. 

The Wrap Up

Jargon only makes sense to people who can already speak that language. It doesn't make an argument sound smarter, and it's an inefficient way of conveying information to clients unfamiliar with the terminology, because it'll either confuse or lose them, and you'll need to spend extra time and effort explaining yourself.

Because acronyms and jargon vary across professions, you run the risk of having readers misinterpret what you mean because of what you're saying. It's better to avoid the use of acronyms altogether. (Although if you absolutely have to use that acronym, then you should at least immediately explain what it stands for and means in the same piece of content.)

The overuse of industry language can make your clients zone out. If this is a phrase they've heard fifteen times before, they'll gloss over it instead of actually considering the point you're making. Furthermore, it presents your business as one that only knows the buzzwords, and is hoping that maybe, the clients won't notice.

Lastly, jargon is generally tied to specific terms or situations, and odds are, your profession is going to evolve beyond those terms and situations. The use of jargon in your industry can be an indication that there is only ever one way to achieve something, and isn't ideal for presenting a business that is about meeting the needs of your new clients.

In short, you should explain what you mean when you're writing content for your readers, using language they can understand.


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Topics: Content Marketing

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