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  • Writer's pictureMiriam

Words, Words, Words

word cloud illustration of synonyms of jargon

What languages do you speak?

I speak English and some rusty German and regret that I didn't pay more attention to the other languages I was taught.

I speak communication, planning, economic development, public safety, budgeting, taxation, most of the other dialects of government and some nonprofit lingo. I speak the languages of my family and friendships and the languages of the institutions in which I have been involved.

Even if you think of yourself as a one-language person, you have specific words and phrases that you use when you are in the company of particular folks. Every time we write or speak, we are trying to reach an end audience. When that end audience is someone or someones with whom we share a language, that's a pretty low hurdle. But most people don't share all of our languages. If we don't consider what we are saying in the context of the final reader or listener, our message will be lost.

This is typically the fault of jargon, or language that is specific to a discipline, profession or other group. Jargon can derail clear communication faster than almost anything else.

Have you ever been in a conversation or meeting when someone says something with which you aren't familiar? There's a good chance you have. If you remember those moments, you know that you probably lost track of the discussion, at least briefly, while your brain tried to process the stumbling block of an unknown word, phrase or abbreviation. That's bad enough in a small group, but in a large meeting, a press release, press conference or other critical communication, it can cost you relationships, business or even trust. People may not want to ask for clarification for fear they might look foolish. They may not ask because the situation simple doesn't lend itself to questions.

We have a responsibility to translate our words into the common language. It's easy to fall into our jargon, or want to show off our vocabulary, but that stops conversations when we should be working to start them.

Plain language, simple and easy to understand, is always the goal. By being clear at the outset, we set ourselves up for comfortable and constructive feedback. Language isn't the only factor we need to consider in conversation and collaboration, but it is a pretty solid first step.

Want to cut the jargon? Get in touch.


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