When jargon gets lost in translation with the media

By Gemma Gwilym,

Synergy, stakeholders, best practice, and incentivise, are some of the biggest offenders when it comes to business jargon.

Nothing is more eye roll inducing for journalists and copy editors than overused industry jargon which buries the real meaning and just generally adds confusion.

Yes, under the right circumstances, for instance liaising with business-specific media or even colleagues in your industry, jargon is appropriate. It can even act as a shorthand to get to the point quicker – which is great! But if it disguises what you’re actually trying to say, to the point that it is misunderstood or unreadable, then jargon is just jargon.

It can be all too easy to get sucked into jargon-heavy language when you’re surrounded by it daily in a business environment. Here at jamjar we’ve been known to ping an email or two, action a proposal, or even touch base with clients when the time has called for it – let’s be honest we’ve all done it! We sat down to discuss further…

Team jamjar

Jargon is often inevitable when you’re communicating with colleagues and using your own weird little language. But when this business-specific language suddenly becomes part of your vocabulary when communicating with potential clients or as part of press releases, the confusion begins. It’s at that point that you are assuming that the reader has prior knowledge of the technical phrases within your industry, which of course, they are unlikely to.

When communicating with anyone outside of your immediate business it is crucial that they are able to understand what product or service you are discussing. Otherwise, what’s the point! Using jargon in these interactions could result in the meaning being utterly lost in translation, which ultimately costs you business.

People who work in specialised fields seem to have their own language. Practitioners develop a shorthand to communicate among themselves. The jargon can almost sound like a foreign language.

Barry Ritzholtz

If your professional field is particularly technical or in-depth in any way, then when it comes to communicating with the media, it’s time to cut out the jargon. Overuse of it could not only see them heavily editing any release or information you send over, it could ultimately confuse them and lead to inaccuracies being introduced while they are re-writing it, or worst of all, dissuade them from even using the release entirely.

Always re-read any copy that you are sending out to customers or the press, and in doing so ask yourself, would a friend or family member outside of this industry understand this completely? If the answer is no, it might be time to explore using more easily understandable language, which gets the message across more effectively.

Equally, another offender which many are guilty of, is introducing acronyms into a press release without any explanation of the business they are related to. This, like jargon, also falls under the assumed knowledge category. Always write the full business title first followed by the acronym, never assume that the reader just knows what it is – they often don’t.

For example, diving straight in and discussing SEO might be fine for those in your technical field, but the average reader would have no clue you were discussing Search Engine Optimisation. So, always write Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). This just clarifies the context for the reader and helps them understand what is being discussed.

So in conclusion, when it comes to jargon – less is always more!

Before we sign off, don’t forget to drop jamjar a line, or ping us an email if you have any press release or copywriting queries!!

Gemma is our resident media mastermind at jamjar. If you need that journo shine added to a story and an inside look into the mind of a reporter, she’s your gal.