The RIGHT way to use jargon on your website

Hey Laura, should I strip my content of jargon? I want to sound like a credible expert, but I also don’t want to confuse my audience. How do I get the balance right?

A couple of weeks ago I saw a Facebook thread from someone asking for feedback on a piece of content.

They were getting s-l-a-m-m-e-d? because their copy was pretty jargon-heavy, and the people volunteering their feedback didn’t understand what the terms meant.

Firstly - this is a great example of why asking for feedback in a Facebook group is not always a great idea (more on that in a blog post soon).

Secondly - Using jargon isn’t always a flat out no-no.

Just like ice cream for breakfast, there are occasions when it’s perfectly acceptable.

Let me demonstrate with one of my great loves - Formula 1.

Here are three extracts from different publications, all describing the exact same incident.

In short - none of the drivers wanted to be the first to set their fastest lap time, because it was quicker to drive behind someone else, due to magical physics-based reasons to do with aerodynamics.

This is what the BBC had to say:

You’ll see I’ve highlighted one jargon term, and even that has a short explanation after it.

Here’s the same story from Autosport.com

More jargon.

No explanations.

Your average human probably isn’t going to enjoy reading this article because they’ll have to keep guessing what words mean, or go to the trouble of looking them up.

They would be more comfortable reading the BBC article.

I would be bored to tears and frustrated reading the BBC article because much of the word count is used up explaining things I already understand.

The Autosport.com article is just right - it assumes I have a certain level of background knowledge. Within a sentence or two I can see this piece of content is aimed at me.

Neither the BBC nor Autosport have got it wrong. They are writing for different audiences, and they have pitched their language perfectly.

So YES, there is a time and a place for jargon. Decide what your audience’s level of background knowledge is, and position the language you use accordingly.

You will need to vary the language used according to the audience.

Sound tricky?

You already do this - everyday.

Drop a mug of volcanic tea on the floor in front of your partner and you’ll probably use very different words to express your shock and discomfort, than if you’d done it in front of your toddler (unless you’ve perfected The Good Place cursing system, in which case mother-forking shirtballs is your go-to regardless of who’s present).

😫🙄❌ Do NOT use jargon to show-off, sound clever, position yourself as an expert.

💞😍✅ Do use jargon if it is the most effective way to communicate with your intended audience.

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Thanks muchly,

L