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Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Dan Bailes: We're an impatient people. Time is money. So when we have something to say, we want to get it out there and out of the way. Jargon is quick. Jargon is in the know. Jargon is inside the box. Jargon is also stultifying.

When you throw it into the mix, it is a total idea stopper. When I hear jargon I'm suddenly more aware of the speaker than the words -- the flow of ideas smashes into a wall of questions. They keep on going but I'm asking myself, do I understand what that bit of jargon means? Jargon does not invite you in, it keeps you out.

When WSJ Business Tech blog writer Ben Worthen wrote about "Tech Terms We Hate" he used the example of the IT word "user." He was quite eloquent on the subject, so I'd like to quote him here:

Today, all the term does is emphasize technology at the expense of the task someone is trying to perform. To an IT person, you aren't writing a message, you're using email. To see how ridiculous this is, try applying 'user' to some routine activities. Someone who is grocery shopping becomes a supermarket user; a driver becomes a vehicle user.

See what I mean. It takes the person out of the experience. And Washington seems to be a city overflowing with jargon, government acronyms and pundit double speak. Whoops, I guess that's a bit of jargon, isn't it? Lifted that expression from Mr. Orwell's 1984.

Anyway, when I interview people for a video I'm always aware of how they answer. When I hear jargon, I'll ask the question again, usually acting like I didn't understand what they were telling me. That often makes them want to rephrase the answer, looking for words to help me understand what they are saying. And when I edit a person's interview for a video, I always try to edit out jargon from their comments. That way, the flow of ideas moving right along.

And after all, no one ever complained that someone's words were too easy to understand.

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