Jargon is occupation-specific language used by people in a given profession, the “shorthand” that people in the same profession use to communicate with each other. For example, plumbers might use terms such as elbowABSsweating the pipesreducerflappersnake, and rough-in. Other plumbers will understand those terms in the context of plumbing, but to non-plumbers, those terms may have different meanings or be entirely without clear meaning. Jargon exists in just about every occupation: medicine, law, marketing, banking, insurance, education, engineering, farming, auto repair, construction trades, and more.

Jargon is fine to use when communicating with other members of your profession.  It makes sense, for example, for a doctor performing a medical procedure to use jargon in speaking with the anesthetist, nurses, and other medical professionals, since all of those others understand the terms in the same way and the medical jargon eliminates the need for lengthy explanations.

However, jargon is not useful in situations in which your audience does not have the same technical or professional background. If some technical terms are absolutely necessary to your communication, be sure to explain each term and its context.

The following video provides an example of the jarring aspects of jargon.

Whether or not to use jargon is often a judgment call, and one that’s sometimes easier to make in speaking than in writing. In an oral context, you may be able to know from immediate feedback whether or not your audience understands a technical term, based on their facial expressions or body language. If not, you can define the term immediately.  In written language, you lack that immediate response and must consider your audience’s characteristics and background more carefully. The more you learn about your audience, the more you can tailor your  words to that audience’s level of understanding. If you lack information or want your document to be understood by a variety of readers, then use common words and avoid jargon.

This video reviews the concept of jargon and offers tips for using and/or eliminating it from your professional communications.