Why should you avoid jargon in communication?

If you goal is to cultivate relationships with customers, avoiding jargon in your company’s communications is essential.

Jargon in Communication Creates Confusion

Have you ever visited a company website, read the “About Us” page, and shook your head in confusion about what that business was all about? When that happens, it’s frustrating, for sure. 

I don’t know about you, but my record for clicking away from pages like this is 100%. I don’t want to guess what the company does or what it can do for me. 

Jargon. Not a Fan

Researchers at Ohio State University conducted a survey to find out what happens when online readers are exposed to jargon. Study participants were asked to read only a few paragraphs about surgical robots and self-driving cars in simple terms. A second group read three paragraphs on the same topics; this time, the text included specialized jargon. 

The group exposed to  jargon in communication was given definitions for all the terms. However, by the time they were finished reading, they felt disengaged. They said they didn’t like what they were reading and even argued against what was in the text. 

Conversely, the group that read the plain-language text felt more empowered after reading their paragraphs. They were more likely to say they understood what they read. This group considered themselves knowledgeable about the topic. 

Talk to Your Customers, Not at or Above Them

The Ohio State University researchers found that even when the study participants could access definitions for the jargon by holding their mouse over the words, they still reacted negatively. 

What can you do with this knowledge?

Understand that customers want to deal with companies that talk to them in “their language.” They distrust a business that speaks to them over their heads, even if it provides explanations. If your customers can’t trust your marketing message, getting them to buy from you becomes much more difficult. Jargon in communication decreases trust.

No one suggests you “dumb down” your marketing message for your customers. That’s insulting to you and them. Just ensure your message doesn’t score too high on the jargon meter, or you could unknowingly be driving potential customers away. 

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