Jargon is a form of language that only a specific group of people understand. It’s common in industries such as medicine, law enforcement and the military. It’s used to simplify interactions or conceal information.
While it might help to simplify communication in some situations, some would argue that it has no place in your online communications. If you’re trying to market your products or services, restricting the audience can only damage your reach, right?
Jargon may inadvertently hide information from readers and make it difficult for them to understand your content. For your website copy to have maximum impact on its audience, you’ll need to remove any jargon from sentences so they can grasp complex concepts quickly.
What is jargon?
Jargon is any words or phrases used by a professional or group that would be difficult for an outsider to understand. When you use jargon in your website copy, you’re going out of your way to exclude people, and these people could be potential customers.
This isn’t about “dumbing down” your website copy; it’s about making it accessible to anyone. It’s also about making your website copy appear more human. And let’s face it, less annoying. Business jargon includes a lot of phrases that are tired and overused.
Why is B2B content often full of jargon?
In the B2B sector, it’s common for copywriters to assume that copy should be dry and technical. But every transaction still relies on the ability of your website content to convince a person to make a purchase decision.
By making your website copy relatable and personable, you speak directly to decision-makers and make their lives easier when they have to convince their superiors to purchase from you. They already know how to talk about your product like a real person because your website copy shows them how.
How can you identify jargon?
It’s easy to assume that what you consider to be common knowledge is the same for everyone. But this simply isn’t the case.
For example, not many people outside of publishing and marketing know what “above the fold” means. And LSE could stand for the London School of Economics, or it could stand for the London Stock Exchange. Your personal experiences will determine how you interpret this acronym.
If you aren’t sure if you’re using jargon, ask for a second opinion from someone outside your sector. Ask them which words they aren’t comfortable defining and which ones they would have to look up to understand the content.
Another great way to identity jargon is to search Google for jargon related to your industry. You might discover a lot of words you have been using in communications are exclusionary.
Or, you can head to Wikipedia and search for a term. If it leads you to a disambiguation page, chances are you’ve landed on some industry jargon.
Why should you remove it from your company communications?
Your website should communicate meaning, and jargon is a potential barrier. Some people are very skilled at working around jargon. They might quickly Google the meaning of a word or else skip over it. But others will find the task is too arduous and simply leave your website.
Removing jargon from your website is the simplest way to make it accessible to as many people as possible. This is particularly helpful for industrial and manufacturing websites. By identifying and eliminating jargon, you will be forced to think of the simplest way to express what you mean. And this often makes for far more effective copywriting. So, when writing about pest control, don’t assume that your customers will know that an ILT is an insect light trap.
When is it okay to use jargon?
Sometimes, jargon is unavoidable. You run the risk of looking incompetent or patronising if you try to skirt around the topic. But when using jargon, it’s important to offer additional context to the reader. These are some simple ways you can achieve this:
- Add a glossary to your website so you can provide a link to explain the meaning.
- Avoid using abbreviations wherever possible.
- If you use an acronym, always define it the first time you use it.
If jargon is more precise than layman’s terms, and you are confident your audience will understand the meaning, this is the best option. Always consider your audience, and if you aren’t sure if your website content is too technical, get a second opinion from an outsider.
Check your reading grade
Another simple way to identify if jargon is damaging your website copy is by checking the reading grade of your content. There are different scales available to help you check how difficult your content is to read.
The Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress will show you your Flesch reading ease score, but this is simply a measure of the sentence length and word length. If you use longer sentences and longer words, your content is considered harder to read.
Instead, try using Hemingway Editor to quickly check the accessibility of your content. For a technical website with a technical audience, you can afford to have a higher reading grade. However, Hemingway Editor may highlight some simple ways you can make even the most technical web copy more user-friendly.