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!


Weekend Wrinkle: The Rise of The Nib

The NibIn the bowels of the government office building, intrepid copy editor Devon Taylor chased down a lead on a cabal so intent on twisting and bloating the writing in public reports as to make them dense and unintelligible.

“I must foil their dastardly plan to pervert the idea of freedom of information,” Devon thought as the pinprick from the pen light showed the way.

Soon the hallway opened up into a large storage area, dimly lit by flashlights in the raised hands of hooded, cloaked, chanting figures.

“Jargon is king!”

“Perfection is reached by passive voice.”

“All hail wordiness!”

The mysterious figures slowly circled a huge vat of what, from the smell, could only be lead-based ink.

Mobile device at the ready, Devon was just about to get the evidence needed to expose the cabal to the world when hands reached out and grasped Devon’s arms and legs. The captors lifted a struggling, yelling Devon and tossed the copy editor into the vat.

Sinking, sinking into the blackness, all Devon could think was, “This is it. This is the end. My quest for quality writing is thwarted!”

Then the pain came. The chemicals and lead caused an explosion of agonizing transformation to Devon’s body.  Head, arms, torso, legs – all were converted into something much more, something destined to rid the world of obtuse writing.

Devon Taylor no longer existed. Shooting up from the roiling, ebony liquid surged The Nib – Champion of Clear Writing.