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Plain English Campaign versus jargon

We at Plain English Campaign need no invitation to join the chorus of disapproval about jargon.

We recently highlighted yet another example of typical nonsense from our friend Donald Trump, and always keep a watchful eye on the worst in gobbledygook.

We’ve recently read a number of interesting and eloquent articles on the subject. Roger Trapp in Forbes suggests that ‘A tendency to use jargon, buzzwords and corporate-speak often means that the speaker does not have a command of his or her subject.’

Karen Friedman, in the Philadelphia Business Journal, says that ‘Jargon questions your audience’s intelligence. That’s right. Big words can insult your audience by suggesting you don’t trust them enough to speak simply.’

Catherine Soanes, writing in the Oxford Dictionaries blog, slams ‘corporatese’ which is ‘used to obfuscate or to provide a positive spin on disagreeable matters’.

Speaking to Eoghan McNeill about jargon on the Websummit blog, Basecamp CEO Jason Fried says, ‘If that’s how you communicate, there’s no point even continuing. It’s about respect. If you’re just going to throw jargon at me, you’re not actually trying to talk to me. You’re trying to talk over me.’

And on the American Prospect website, Peter Dreier talks about conning a university by talking absolute nonsense. ‘I tried,’ he says, ‘as best I could within the limits of my own vocabulary, to write something that had many big words but which made no sense whatsoever.’ Depressingly, the results lead to him being invited to give a talk, presumably on nonsense.

All the above articles say the same thing. Jargon is not only bad and often deceptive language, it’s often proof of a lack of expertise rather than confirmation of it. Those relying on jargon probably don’t know what they’re talking about, or are dressing up very little as a very big deal.

While there’s more jargon now than ever, there are more articles criticising the use of it then ever. We’ll periodically bring the best of those articles to your attention, here and on our Facebook and Twitter pages.


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