Jargon can suck the life out of any business meeting, lecture, PowerPoint deck, therapy session, or web story. Even “Corporate Speak” above gets across how ubiquitous jargon is. Imagine if this video comic sketch were written out. The horror.
You’ll soon do battle with jargon in your own how-to-pieces—and in a quiz for Week 7 based on Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style. So, buckle up, brave writing warriors.
The zombies are coming.
Step 1: We need to fight jargon everywhere.
That’s the biggest takeaway—and yes, takeaway is jargon. It’s what Pinker and others colorfully call a zombie noun: a word that originates in action—take this away—only to die as a verb and come back to life as the walking dead.
More examples: If you’re not careful, “pompous frills and meaningless jargon” (William Zinsser) will colonize your writing like an influx from Night of the Living Dead. In the excerpt below, Inc. columnist James Sudakow has underlined all the jargon in his riff on US college basketball’s “March Madness.”
Whether you follow sports or not, you’ll recognize this stuff:
Step 2: Vote on the worst jargon.
In the Week 5 poll, you can choose more than one jargon talker. They are legion.
I hope this poll shines a light (cliché) on the formation (zombie noun) of abstractions (zombie noun) that we need to beat back with a stick (another cliché).
Image: ‘The Walking Dead‘ © id-iom; Creative Commons license.
Step 3: Explain your vote.
For the required poll assignment, comment on the choice(s) you made and the use of jargon in your profession or where you work. The explanation for your choice is the main part of this assignment.
If you make a comment about that on this post—and please do—just be sure you also paste it into the Canvas assignment entry.
A virtual nod to all who include examples of their jargon pet peeves, as in this Boston Globe digital piece about workplace jargon (set up as a slide show)—or this BBC jargon discussion based on reader responses.
And feel free to stand up for jargon, too, or to argue for using it sometimes. For instance: I happen to like takeaway, as long as it’s not thrown in every other sentence. Clichés such as ducks in a row are visual, even appealing, as long as they aren’t overused.
The trouble is, they almost always are overused. Every time I come across elephant in the room, I feel like beating myself with a stick.