A Note On Using Jargon In Your Website Copy
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with jargon (mostly hate, I'll admit). I know that jargon has its place in some copy. But most of the time, it's the bane of my existence
What do I mean when I say jargon?
Sometimes I'm talking about industry-speak that you're only going to understand if you're in that industry. Words the average Joe coming across your company isn't going to understand.
But it also refers to unnecessary words and phrases. Ones that can be simplified without changing the meaning at all. Business is full of these kinds of phrases:
'Iterate' when you mean 'repeat,'
'Touch base' when you mean 'meet,'
'Knowledge transfer' when you mean 'teach,'
This list could go on and on and on.
When jargon is used, you can bet your hat that it's there as an ego boost for whoever wrote it. It's pretentious, and I hate it.
But Why Is It Bad?
Okay, I realise I sound like I'm just ranting here, so let me give you my actual reasons for hating jargon .
1. It’s confusing
Your customer, or potential customer, may not be familiar with your industry. They might have heard of your product or come across you on in a Google search without much knowledge of what it is you actually do.
So as they browse your website looking to find out more information, the last thing they want is to be bogged down with a load of words and phrases they need an industry dictionary to figure out.
It doesn’t matter how amazing your product or service is, if your explanation of it confuses your customer, they won’t stick around to find out any more.
2. It can be a bit cliché
A lot of business jargon has become so overused that it’s cringe-worthy when you see it in someone’s copy.
Using phrases like ‘next-generation,' ‘state-of-the-art,’ or ‘compelling’ when describing your product or service has become so cliché that they’re painful to read.
You don’t want your customer face-palming while reading your copy, so don’t give them a reason to.
3. It’s not always good for SEO
Like I said earlier, your customers might not be all that familiar with your industry phrases. So they’re not going to be searching for those phrases, they're going to search for simpler ones.
If you’re filling your copy with jargon rather than the simpler phrases that your customers actually use, then you’re not going to rank in the results your customers get.
Use ‘cheaper’ instead of ‘cost-effective’, or ‘complete’ instead of ‘holistic’ (I can’t stand the word ‘holistic’; I feel about it the way other people feel about ‘moist’).
This means that you’re more likely to rank for the phrases your customers use when searching for something in your industry.
So how do you go about making your copy jargon-free?
Show, Don’t Tell
This is lesson number one in any writing class. Telling your reader what you want them to feel or think is a huge no-no.
Of course, you want your reader to think that your product is the best, but you want them to come to that conclusion by themselves.
They’re much more likely to want to buy from you if they had the thought themselves than if they’ve just been told it.
So rather than telling your reader that your product is the best, show them the benefits they will get from using it.
Don’t say your product uses state-of-the-art technology to improve sales. Use statistics and testimonials from previous customers to show them how much their sales can improve by using your product.
They’d also be more inclined to believe someone else telling them how good your product is to you telling them yourself, anyway.
Keep Your Writing Simple
Your readers are busy. They’re probably reading your copy while commuting into work or eating lunch at their desk. They don’t have time to slog through paragraphs of industry buzz-words that make no sense to them.
If it’s too complicated, they’ll leave your site.
So you want to keep your copy as simple and easy to read as possible.
Don’t use words that you think make you sound smart (I’m looking at you again ‘holistic'). Often they just make you seem like you’re trying too hard.
Avoid adverbs. The majority of the time they’re completely unnecessary (see, ‘unnecessary’ would have been fine on its own there).
Words like ‘really’ and ‘very’ don’t add anything to a sentence, so don’t bother with them either.
Keep A Note Of Jargon Terms You Use A Lot
If you go through all your copy you’ll probably find a few industry words or phrases that pop up a lot.
These are dangerous phrases because you probably don’t realise you’re using them, they just slip out as easy as a wet bar of soap.
Keep a list of these words and phrases so that every time you write something new you can check it against this list.
This will make it easier to spot the jargon you might not know you’re using, make you more aware of where you’re most likely to use it, and make it easier to stop using it altogether.
Get Someone Outside Your Industry to Read It
Do you have friends or family members that fit your customer profiles, but aren’t involved in your industry? Get them to read your copy before you publish it and see if they understand it.
If they do, great, publish away.
But if not, find out what they don’t understand and change it so they do.
If you want to go one step further than this, hire a copywriter to write your copy for you.
They won’t be specifically involved in your industry, so they have more of an objective view of what words are understandable. But they’re also professional writers, so you will still get quality copy that speaks to your customers.
Jargon can have its place in your copy, but it shouldn’t be a large place.
Keep your copy simple, easy to read, and most of all, customer-focused. If your customer can’t read your copy then why bother to write it?