Cutting out the jargon for better message delivery

By Jessica M. Pasko, senior account manager

Here’s an often-misunderstood fact about using multisyllabic, complicated words: in most cases, they don’t help you communicate more effectively. In fact, often, rather than making a person sound smarter or more expert, it can actually confuse the people to whom you’re trying to convey information.

When it comes to engaging with media, the core goal with any of our clients is to help them get their message and value propositions across in a clear, concise way that reporters, analysts and other target audiences can easily understand. Most reporters can smell marketing jargon a mile away and they don’t like it. As an ex-journalist turned PR pro, I can confirm that one of the quickest ways to alienate reporters and keep them from writing the positive, on-message coverage we strive for is to give them a verbal showering of jargon and marketing speak.

In general, we can all benefit from reducing our use of jargon. It’s especially important when it comes to interacting with media and creating contributed articles or blogs. Here are a few key tips we recommend to all of our clients:

  • How would you explain this to a person sitting next to you on an airplane? One thing we like to suggest to our clients is that they think carefully about how they would explain their technology to someone with either no technology background or someone you don’t know (and who could have deep technical expertise but could just as easily not). How would you tell the stranger next to you on a plane what you do? How would you explain it to a high school student, your grandparent, your neighbor? And how would you do this in one to two sentences? It’s a hugely helpful exercise.
  • Keep it simple and to the point: There are a lot of commonly used phrases that are unnecessarily long and just plain redundant. Here are some of the offending statements we see most often and what we suggest instead:
    • In order to: This rarely needs to be used. Just say “to” and get to the point.
    • Direct confrontation: By definition, all confrontation is direct.
    • Unintended mistake: If it was intended, it wouldn’t be a mistake
    • Future plans: All plans are in the future – that’s what makes them plans and not actuality.
    • Exact same, each individual: No need for the modifiers! Say same or individual.
  • Nouns and verbs each have their own special place: There are plenty of wonderful words out there that don’t need to be turned into verbs – resist! Words like incentive, leverage and outreach work perfectly well as nouns paired with verbs like “creating incentives,” “give us leverage” and “conducting outreach.”
  • Never use the word utilization: This one’s a major personal and professional pet peeve for me. Not only does it sound ugly, but it doesn’t really mean anything. The word “use” will suffice in almost instances (and the same applies for utilize). Utilize and utilization rarely add anything to a conversation nor do they make the speaker sound more knowledgeable. It’s another frustrating example of how a new definition can be given to a word as part of business jargon.

Interested in learning more about how we can help you get your message out there effectively and clearly? Check out our offerings here.