Let’s Jabber About Jargon

A quote about jargon came through a UX newsletter today that got me thinking about jargon, how much I hate it, and that maybe, just maybe, there’s another side to the argument:

We can either use language to invite people into a conversation, or we can use language to keep people out. And that’s what jargon is designed to do, keep people out.”

— Dave Trott

In theory: yes.
In theory: I should never have to listen to someone tell me they’ll be out of pocket again.
In theory: I get what he’s saying. I buy it and believe it and do my best to keep bullshit filler-language from coming out of my talkin’ parts.

I hate it when people talk in jargon. It makes me cranky. Especially the business-veneer people use meetings.

“out of pocket” 
“circle back” 
“drop the ball” 

The intended subtext(s):
1. I am a professional meeting person.
2. I am a serious adult.

The received subtext(s):
1. Look at me! I’m a business!
2. I’m full of shit.
3. I don’t respect any of you enough to use honest language.


The cold hard bitch of reality isn’t always on the side of what’s right and just.

Some businesses deal with complicated things that require shorthand jargon. Some businesses use it as a marker for professionalism. Some have an infestation of jargon and don’t know it because it’s in the very air they breath.

In a jargon-rich environment, knowing the code is essential to having the conversation in the first place. It communicates that someone is authentically a part of the organization. They know what they are doing. They speak the language. They are professionals.

Not using the code might lead to distrust. To say something using simple language might come across as naive or unprofessional. Or, just, weird.

If you’re from an agency, it might help to communicate that you’re not just some agency ding-a-ling wearing a beret … that you actually understand the client’s business.

It’s not fair. But being flexible enough to move back and forth, from the jargon to human-speak, will be helpful. You’ll likely have to act as a translator between actual humans and businesslings at some point. You’ll also be able to help them to untangle problems complications and misunderstandings that plague corporate cultures.

And over time, after you’ve won their hearts and jargon-filled minds, you can begin the process of walking them back from the precipice of business-talk hell. One day they’ll think you, with a crisply worded thank you card that is full of human feeling and meaning.