Monday, September 8, 2014

The etiquette of jargon – an editorial

A few years ago, as I was making a bank deposit, I noticed a half sheet of paper posted inside the teller’s cage. On it was a list of rules for good customer service. I was delighted to see that Rule #1 was “Don’t use bank jargon.”

The managers of that bank had enough insight to recognize that, although employees know that rule, they often need to be reminded of it. That’s because employees speak jargon all day with their co-workers. It eventually stops feeling like jargon, because everybody understands it.

Everybody except the customer, that is.

It is good manners and good business for employees to remain aware of their jargon, so they won't forget and use jargon in front of customers.

For more on jargon, go here.

The Takeaway: We all forget occasionally; we use jargon when speaking or writing to someone who probably doesn’t understand our jargon. The main thing is not to make this error too frequently. As the American writer Elbert Hubbard said, “Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.”*

*Unfortunately, even five minutes of folly can be too much on some days, including the day in 1915 on which Elbert Hubbard booked an Atlantic crossing on RMS Lusitania, in spite of the German government’s recent warning that it would fire on British-flagged passenger liners in the war zone. When the German navy torpedoed and sank the Lusitania, Elbert Hubbard and 1,194 other passengers and crewmen died.

See disclaimer.

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