"Don’t use big words, they mean so little.” – Oscar Wilde
Share or view this on the web.

Issue 35   January, 2016

DFreelance writer Sue Hornerear Sue,
The corporate world is infected with jargon. And the more people use words like “utilize,” the more the infection spreads. This issue of Wordnerdery looks at why using words like “utilize” is not a good idea, and gives some alternatives.
Sue's signature
To be understood,
stay away from jargon

Avoid the blah blah of’s contributing editor, Geoffrey James, doesn’t sugarcoat it. Jargon, or biz-blab as he calls it, “makes you and everyone around you progressively less intelligent.”
He explains, “[I]f you habitually use fuzzy, ill-defined words crammed into long and convoluted sentences, you're training your brain -- and the brains of your team members -- to think less clearly.”
What’s more, rather than making you sound more intelligent, using words like “utilize” makes readers think less of you. Instead, a study by Daniel Oppenheimer at Princeton University shows that readers attribute high intelligence and trustworthiness to authors who are easy to understand. (Read more about the study, including a great analogy to a puffer fish.)
You’re easier to understand when you use plain language. You’re more conversational and concise, so busy people understand even if they skim the words or aren’t paying close attention. And you know that is happening.
The Canadian Press spells it out in its Caps and Spelling book: “When there is a choice of words, prefer the short to the long, the familiar to the unfamiliar.”
Here are some of the terms I despise the most, and what you can use instead:
 Actionable  Ways you can act
 Deploy  Use, introduce
 Impact (noun)  Effect
 Impact (verb)  Affect
 Impactful  Effective
 Leverage  Use
 Mitigate  Ease, reduce, temper
 Overarching  Overall
 Paradigm  Viewpoint, model
 Persons  People
 Transparent  Clear
 Utilize, utilization  Use, usage
 Skillset  Skill
 Synergy You might as well say “magic”
James suggests if confronted with biz-blab, ask a question that forces clearer thinking, or what he calls “pinning the Jell-O to the wall.” For example, if someone says, “We can leverage our customer base,” you say, “I’m not sure what you mean by ‘leverage.’ Is there some small action we’re going to take that will have outsized results?”
The bottom line, as a recent article for the Nielsen Norman Group puts it: “Express yourself plainly and simply… Weed out vague jargon and complicated words and replace them with common terms. Your readers will like you more.”

What biz-blab sets your teeth on edge? How do you pin Jello-O to the wall? Hit “reply” and please share. And let me know if you need help cutting the jargon out of your communications.

Images: Blah blah by "pakorn" and Photo of Sue by Rob Jeanveau of IABC/Golden Horseshoe.

Related links

The 18F guide to plain language and other tips for content that’s easy to understand

Not sure if a word is jargon? Use the buzzword checker

Recently on the Red Jacket Diaries

Boost your business (and life) with the power of thought

Use focus + five steps to be more productive


Copyright © 2016 Get It Write All rights reserved.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp