July was an interesting month for the Collaborative Services blog. We talked to language experts who believe that:
1. Jargon can be bad for your health.
2. Slang is, in its own right, pretty cool.
3. Texting – and all the abbreviations and acronyms that go with it – can make kids smarter.
We could not agree more with Senelick that medical jargon can be downright dangerous. All forms of jargon can be inscrutable and create a barrier to understanding.
But as for Crystal, we were a little surprised and more than a little intrigued to see such an eloquent defense of texting, with its unique abbreviated language. And Barrett, whom we knew would defend the use of slang, impressed us with his depth of knowledge.
However, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs as professional communicators if we didn’t throw just a little cold water on this party.
Acronyms and slang can be colorful convenient and fun. But they are kind of like the junk food of the English language. A little bit is OK, but regular use is not recommended. And, depending on your goals and your audience, they are often to be avoided entirely.
Jargon can make you sound like an expert and acronyms come in handy when making your case on Twitter, but what’s the point if no one can understand what you are saying?
An obvious goal in communicating is clarity. So, if you need to communicate something important follow these simple tips:
Know Your Goals: What’s your objective in writing the piece? If its entertainment, acronyms and slang are fine, even welcome. If it’s education, they’re to be avoided. Because acronyms and slang can be the enemy of clarity.
Know Your Audience: Who do you want to reach with your message? Narrowing down your audience helps you tailor your message and deliver information more effectively. Keeping your audience broad runs the risk of diluting your message and losing interest because people may not understand why they should care. For example, trying to reach the general public is too broad of an audience. The general public is made up of business owners, residents, parents, students, men and women to name a few, so tailor your message accordingly.
As lovers of language we appreciate acronyms, jargon and slang and their contribution to making language fun and entertaining, but they may not be the best option when trying to get your point across.
For the rest of August, the Collaborative Services blog will be taking a summer break. We hope you enjoy your summer and we’ll see you in September when we move to learning about BIG projects.
Until then TTFN!
Jonathan Heller, Communications Director & Liz Faris, Associate
Collaborative Services, Inc.