Ooh! Talk Jargon to Me – Not!

talkjargontome“The product availability situation is resultant from an undertooled matrix team deficient in chronological implementation systems,” declared the CEO.

Adolescent commas and dashes squealed and swooned in ecstasy to hear the jargon.

“Name and goodwill and payment of the Holders from service of the Plan Years, the Warrant certificates are no portion of the Warrants which will emanate from Licensor,” crooned the lawyer.

“Don’t they just talk fancy!” one dash proclaimed.

Fancy, yes; intelligible, definitely not.

Jargon in general writing is a blatant symptom of “I want to sound smart” syndrome (IWTS3). Remember? We talked about this. The way to be smart is to write clearly, not to write so no one can understand you.

Yes, there is a place for jargon – among people in the same occupation. That’s because jargon is like a shorthand for people with a common background for quick communication. It’s like another language, which is exactly the reason it shouldn’t be used in mixed company.

When using jargon, IWTS3 sufferers display

  • an uncontrollable desire to be admired for their enigmatic words,
  • the mistaken idea that people actually enjoy trying to sift through the dreck to find the kernel of meaning, and
  • a smug power high which radiates, “You’re too ignorant to understand.”

How do we cure IWTS3 sufferers from using jargon?

The old treatment was to slap the writer upside the head with a pica stick*.  That turned out to be pretty ineffective (no matter how satisfying for the editor).

Modern treatment is to lock the writer up with a group of copy editors and grammar geeks screaming, “Revise! Revise! Revise!”

The length of exposure depends on the persistence of the condition.


*In the “bad old days,” editors used a stick with pica measurements to make sure headlines would fit. Talk about using jargon!


4 thoughts on “Ooh! Talk Jargon to Me – Not!

  1. Just a small quibble with your jargon. In the really bad old days, it was a pica pole, not stick. And we used it with a proportion wheel, just to prove my status as an ancient practitioner.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL, Barbara! My college newspaper was set on a linotype, complete with hell box; no printer’s devil, though! Journalism and media have changed SO much!

      Liked by 1 person

    • In my editing class, I’m sure that “pole” would have been a term no one would have let be. However, I defer to your more historical outlook.

      I still have my proportion wheel, too. Don’t you remember the count charts we had posted for the various fonts and sizes? I can remember being so familiar with the count that I no longer had to refer to them. (I can also remember my editing final when we had to be within a half count on our headlines. The “fun” modern journalists and page designers are missing out on…)


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