Tuesday 23 May 2017

Jargon, Acronyms and Numbers – OMG!

Jargon, acronyms and numbers are bad habits content writers need to cut.

Jargon, acronyms and numbers; be careful when using them your in your using them when you are writing for the general public.

Jargon is terms commonly used by a specific profession or group of people, and not well understood outside that circle.

Examples of Jargon:

  • Benign is a medical jargon that means a disease that does not spread around the body.
  • An affidavit is a legal jargon that pertains to a sworn document.
  • A roadmap can be business jargon that simply refers to a plan.

“You must learn to talk clearly. The jargon of scientific terminology which rolls off your tongues is mental garbage.” – Martin H. Fischer

Acronyms and abbreviations are another forms of jargon. These are words or names formed from the first letters of the each word in a title, often pronounced as a word. Popular examples are NASA, NATO, UNESCO,  FAX and LASER.

Abbreviations are shortened forms of words or terms often using the first letter of each word.  examples of this are UN, DNA, and FBI.

Professionals and specialists in a particular field often use jargon and acronyms to convey brief and precise meanings to their colleagues, as many of these words do not have counterparts in casual language. These words are meaningless to people outside that specialised circle.

Why Avoid Jargon

Occasionally using jargon may be acceptable. However, many writers over-use these words to exaggerate the importance of the article in an attempt to boost their credibility on the subject. This will cause readers to lose their focus as they attempt to put meaning to the foreign terms. Instead of the intended captivated audience, you can be left with a misguided and even intimidated reader.

According to a user experience study by the Nielson Norman Group, people are more attracted to articles that contain less jargon and they expect to find facts and relevant information straightaway, written in a manner that they can easily understand.

In content marketing, the goal is to reach a wide spectrum of readers who relate and engage with your article. Using simple language increases the readability and clarity of your piece which will have much wider appeal.

Jargon threatens search engine rankings. Using too many unfamiliar words make it difficult for search engines to determine what your content is all about.

Find the jargon in your piece and think of a simpler or *layman’s term substitute for it. If you must use jargon in the article, explain what it means using simple words and help your reader make sense of it.

Acronyms and Abbreviations

Acronyms tend to disrupt the normal flow of reading and make the text difficult to read. Too many acronyms will make your article appear incomprehensible. They can be less threatening when they are clearly defined when first mentioned in the article.

 example:  If you use Global Environment Monitoring System for the first time in an article, follow it by the acronym (GEMS) in brackets. Then, use GEMS in succeeding paragraphs.

Acronyms pronounced as words will work in most sentences. Examples are UNICEF and UNESCO. However, take note of the pronunciation to know whether to put “a” or “an” before it.

Using Numbers

Numbers are a useful tool in representing information within a text and organising ideas. According to an eye-tracking research, readers are drawn to numbers as they represent hard facts. However, like acronyms, they can also affect the rhythm of your writing.

The general rule for American Psychological Association or APA style is to use words for numbers below 10 and digits for numbers 10 above. Units of measurement, statistical data, age, dates and units of time should be expressed in numerals regardless of size. Words are used when the number begins a sentence and a title.

Excessive jargon, acronyms, abbreviations and improper use of numbers are just a few of the destructive habits content writers need to watch out for. After all the work you put into writing and article, the last thing you want is a reader who finds more questions in your content than answers.

*Layman / a person without professional or specialised knowledge in a particular subject.

About the author

Michael Chenier has worked in the advertising, website development, online marketing and the magazine publishing industry for the past 20 years. He currently owns ARORE COMMUNICATIONS