Judicious Jargon - For Your Book

Writers like to use colloquialisms, pop language, and technical terms to make their stories feel more natural, current and modern. In dialog, this may prove to be helpful. In describing backgrounds, actions and scenes overuse of jargon or buzzwords can backfire. One important goal in writing is to achieve maximum comprehension and consistent interpretation of the work. That means simple language rules.

Heavy use of jargon is not limited to any particular genre of books. Jargon can be found in fictional mystery stories, memoirs and advanced technical ‘how to’ guides. Sometimes the writer chooses technical jargon in an attempt to demonstrate familiarity with the subject matter. Some use of such jargon may be appropriate and even beneficial to the story. Overuse of jargon may confuse the reader who may dismiss the book as being too technical for their liking. Simple language breaks through these barriers and keeps the reader engaged. Thus, the suggestion; make judicious use of jargon in writing.

To find straightforward reasons why common language jargon may be misinterpreted, just look to the audience for your book. Where are they? Consider the differences between English language speakers in the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, South Africa, and more. We all claim the same language, English, as a common communications medium. Yet, many words common to each country are not used in others, not to mention the differences in spelling.

For example, did you know that a tractor-trailer is also an articulated lorry? Moreover, many of the same words and phrases used in multiple countries have quite different meanings. A billion in the UK is a million millions. In the US, a billion is a thousand millions. That’s quite a difference. A gallon of gasoline (US) is 3.87 liters, while a gallon of petrol (UK) is 4.55 liters. There exist literally hundreds of such differences in basic common terms. Adding a lot of jargon on top of these differences compounds the challenge of comprehension.

If you use a lot of business or technical jargon, consider the background of your audience. Will they automatically know the meaning of terms such as bandwidth, biobreak, or downtime? This becomes more challenging as we convert technical jargon into acronyms, like STAT, meaning right now, from the medical profession, or HTH, meaning hope this helps, from the technology industry, or SOP, meaning standard operating procedure, from the military. In the United States, the AA is Alcoholics Anonymous. In the UK, the AA is the Automobile Association. Which do you mean?

To keep your reader engaged, write for the simplest common meaning. Plain English helps to simplify the communication with your readers and assures a consistent and accurate understanding. Simple language helps readers to refer others to your book and to represent the content and benefits accurately. If you use jargon heavily, especially technical terms or acronyms then create a glossary of terms or find a way to describe the elements in your writing sufficiently to remove any potential confusion for the reader. Too many buzzwords will firewall your readers from ranting and raving about your work, and that’s a real showstopper that will keep your book off the radar screen for other readers. Simple enough?