Do you need to use certain technical terms in your copy?
The kind that are so specific to your field you can’t avoid not using them?
Are you worried your readers won’t understand you if you use them?
Would you risk it?
Trying to create something readers will love is already hard work.
No one wants to risk alienating their audience.
So what can you do to keep things friendly?
No loss in translation
Havi Brooks, a creativity coach in Portland, Oregon, decided, to hell with “the stupid labels”
When she started her blog The Fluent Self in 2005, she decided to dispense with terms as personal development, self-help, time management, productivity, and guru. She viewed these words as “preachy and not motivational.”
As she described it, “we are all equal here. No external sources of authority needed. We play and have fun.”
Instead, Havi decided to communicate in a way more meaningful to her, with emphasis placed on being herself.
Not only did she choose a rubber duck called Selma to be her business partner, but she also introduced her audience to such concepts as Destuckification and Biggification.
She also began conducting weekly check-ins with her readers in a feature she called Friday Chicken.
Yep, Havi went and created her own un-user-friendly jargon.
To anyone looking in, you’d think she was crazy.
The power of jargon
Jargon, of course, is not actually a thing by itself.
It’s what is used to describe the use of industry-specific language that isn’t explained very well to the reader. When these words start to confuse readers is when they turn into jargon.
While jargon can be negative for a business, it can also be used in a positive, constructive way, if done correctly.
When jargon is used positively, you can:
- Form a tribe of readers and customers ‘in the know’, excluding others you don’t want in your business
- Personalise your authority, by creating your own words to describe your concepts
- Become an authority, since those concepts are completely unique just by having different names
(Where else on the web is there an authority in Destuckification other than Havi Brooks?)
It takes courage to present your content and jargon in this positive way. The common wisdom (sometimes called Google) is that content needs to be user-specific and keyword-centered to win big on the search engines.
Other editors might tell Havi to overhaul her content.
I’m not one of those editors.
The way I see it, as long as your readers know in advance what it is you’re doing, you can carry on.
You give your readers a sense of empowerment, if you approach things like that. Your readers are going to feel a sense of belonging and camaraderie.
Deliberate jargon is like any other form of copy – its purpose is to commmunicate. It’s got to be about your readers. Everything you do needs to come from a genuine and helpful place.
When talking weird can’t be stopped
So what if you’ve got industry-specific language you have to use? How do you go about using it without alienating your readers?
Well, the first thing you should be doing is making a list of what industry language you want to use.
The next step is reducing your list. You want to try and come up with as many easier ways to explain your language as possible, without resorting to those words.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you’re a mindset coach and you use cognitive processes to help clients change how they behave in certain situations. You could use the word “mental techniques” instead of “cognitive processes.” You could also explain what your techniques do and omit “cognitive” altogether.
Any words left on your list that can’t be explained in any other way, here’s how you get readers on your side.
- List your words and their definitions using a glossary web page, as Havi Brooks has done
- Use infographics to explain your words
- Use images to explain more complex ideas
You ultimately want to make sure no reader is left behind by what you’re saying. You want them fully engaged and on your side, not guessing what you’re trying to say. Help them do that as much as possible.
Image: LISA BREWSTER