The copywriter who has no problem with jargon

6 March 2012

Let me say at the outset that I’m a copywriter, so I loathe and despise jargon with every fibre of my being. That might not sit too well with my headline, so let me explain.

I get as angry as the next copywriter when I hear corporations telling us that their stakeholders are evangelists for solutions-led thought-leadership. It’s a hate crime against the English language and there’s no excuse for it.

In business-to-consumer communications, it must be hunted down and shot at all costs. We must leverage best-practice methodology and open our interfaces to a new paradigm. Which is why I found Clare Lynch’s Thirty words and phrases you need to stop using today such an amusing diversion.

But in the world of B2B, where techie developers flog proprietary software to telecoms giants, and Heinz sell great dollops of ketchup to McDonald’s, it’s a different story.

OK, it’s no less ugly. But you can’t expect your average B2B product champion suddenly to alter his whole vocabulary, so that instead of escalating a problem, he promises to talk to his boss about it. Instead of saying he doesn’t have the bandwidth to take on a project, he says he doesn’t have the time right now. You might as well ask him to stop pushing the envelope outside the box.

It’s the language of business. While it might be slightly brainwashed, it’s what people in business understand. And at least it leaves the general public unsullied.

The Economist’s ‘Johnson’ blog is on my side: ‘Jargon is not in itself a bad thing. When it is obfuscatory, employed unnecessarily or used in non-specific contexts, it becomes a nuisance. But it can speed up communication and transmit complicated ideas efficiently within relevant circles. It also creates a feeling of kinship, like knowing a secret code.’

I find it extremely fanciful that a bunch of copywriters are ever going to make the slightest dent in the problem. (I remember my dad bringing home a ‘buzzword generator’ in the late 70s.)

So instead, let’s manage client expectations and focus on actionable deliverables that offer real value-add as we go forward.

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