Monday, May 19, 2008

Detecting your own jargon

If you want to produce clear writing every time, you must always be on the lookout for jargon.

Unfortunately, jargon words and phrases are more apparent to readers than to authors. That is to say, they are usually difficult to detect in your own copy. Here’s an example:

A chief executive officer attempted to eliminate the jargon from a draft press release. After he was satisfied with his rewrite, the first sentence read as follows:

“NetSuite Inc. (NYSE: N - News), a leading vendor of on-demand, integrated business management software suites that include Accounting / Enterprise Resource Planning ( ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Ecommerce software for small and midsized businesses and divisions of large companies, today announced NetSuite OneWorld, a cloud computing solution which enables multi-national and multi-subsidiary companies to manage their global business operations in real-time.”

This sentence is close to 100% jargon. Not surprisingly, it rates a Flesch Reading Ease score of 0.

This example makes the point nicely: it is difficult for us to see our own jargon for what it is.

Here’s the full story, in The Wall Street Journal’s business technology blog.

The Takeaway: Because we read jargon all day, we are almost blind to it. If you are serious about eliminating jargon from the copy you write, ask for help from a sharp-eyed editor. Show your copy to the editor after you are satisfied with it. Better yet: try out the copy on a member of the target audience, if possible. For example, ask a friendly customer or a member of your advisory council for an opinion.

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