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Business Jargon

Synergy. Move the needle. Buy-In. Core competency. Scalable. Best practice. Ducks in a row (hey, we like that one!) Each of these terms landed on Forbes list of The Most Annoying, Pretentious And Useless Business Jargon. But we’ve all used it at one time or another. It slips in to our subconscious and we just can’t help ourselves. Our co-workers use it, our bosses use it, and we follow suit.

So what’s the big deal? What’s so bad about throwing out a little business jargon every now and then? The truth is, in certain settings, it’s completely acceptable – internal meetings, industry conferences and seminars, job interviews – settings where everyone is on the same footing and understands the terms being used. However, by using it at all, you run the risk of starting to use jargon in settings where it falls flat and alienates your audience – client meetings, sales calls, web copy, marketing videos, and so on.

Blue Duck Copy (nice name guys!) does a great job of outlining the reason business jargon often doesn’t work. For starters, prospects and clients (the general public for that matter), tend to distrust jargon – probably thanks to our politicians who use big, meaningless words on a daily basis. It’s also true that people are busy. They don’t have time to Google what you just said, they need to understand your product or service the first time around or they’re moving on. Furthermore, sales is about listening, so say what you have to say in a way that anyone can understand, then sit back and listen.

At Demo Duck, whenever we get too close to a project, we’ll have someone completely unfamiliar with it give us an outside perspective. I call this the Aunt or Uncle test (I would normally say the Grandma test, but sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, Grandma’s just not going to get it). The point is that if your Aunt or Uncle – or anyone outside of your industry – can’t understand what you’re talking about, chances are your customers can’t either. The key is to know your audience and adapt your language accordingly, but when in doubt, keep the jargon out.

The sooner you purge the business jargon from your vocabulary, the sooner you’ll be able to simplify your business and start to clearly communicate your message to everyone. What is some of your favorite business jargon?

Written by Andrew Follett
Andrew is the Founder of Demo Duck, a video production agency. He lives in Chicago, loves startups, and enjoys traveling. You can follow him on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.