English, Please! Avoiding Jargon in Content

We know it has happened to you. That website. What language is it written in, anyway? What do all those acronyms stand for? Forget this. Move on to the next site, one that’s understandable.

As content developers, we find this problem a lot. And we’re asked to fix it. Business owners know there’s a problem, usually, because they aren’t getting a good response to their call to action (CTA – see what we did there?) or because their bounce rate is so high, it looks like it’s defying gravity. (In case you don’t know what a bounce rate is, it’s the analytic that tells you how long people stay on a webpage.) Why are they having these issues? Think about it. If you can’t understand the language on the homepage, why would you sign up for a newsletter or try to read a blog in that language?

Here’s the problem writers face. You still have to build credibility without dumbing it down. You have to write for your audience, yes? What if your audience is generally tech savvy? What if they’re government or military (we all know they have a language of their own)? Then what? Here are some tips that should help you say what you mean and address to impress.

Keep it human – Except for the bots and Google Gods, readers are usually homo sapiens. They are people, and each in their own way, they perceive, process and think. So even if your vocabulary is made up of tech talk and your readers are, well, geeks, you need to make your content friendly and accessible. Sure, show off your knowledge, but in the end, be human. Remember, you’re not just a field expert. When you’re writing content, you’re also a marketer, and marketers have to connect on a personal level.

Spell it outEnglish, Please! Avoiding Jargon in ContentNot everyone who stumbles across your blog is going to know what SEO or CTR means. So say it: search engine optimization (SEO), click through rate (CTR). Use this format once. Then feel free to use the acronyms. If need be, link to pages that help explain these terms (like we just did with SEO and CTR). Your readers then have the opportunity to learn more and be impressed that you know what you’re talking about.

KISS and tell – Keep it simple, silly (or “Keep it simple, stupid,” if you’re blunt). And tell the story. Jargon-filled, long sentences with lots of semicolons and paragraphs that read like British tomes (no offense to our friends across the pond) are a turnoff. Readers’ attention spans just aren’t what they used to be. Besides, if you’re going to create a compelling narrative that includes things like pain points and remedies, as well as a great About Us page, you’re not going to want to make your readers work that hard to understand you.

English, Please! Avoiding Jargon in ContentBe Unique – While terminology is important for SEO, audience recognition and credibility, establish your own use of these terms. Voice, tone and authenticity can contribute to the uniqueness of your web content. If you’re sick of reading content that all sounds the same no matter which site you visit, chances are your visitors feel the same way.

 

Here’s a last piece of advice. Don’t try to go it alone. If you’re writing your own content, get a second or even third pair of eyes on it. Make sure those eyes aren’t in your industry and they don’t belong to your mom (“It’s wonderful, dear!”). Ask for honest feedback, and have your readers explain what they got out of your writing. In lieu of that, hire a professional who will take the time to learn about your business, your voice, your story and yes, your jargon. When you need that professional, think of All Things Writing. Here’s how to contact us.

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Katherine Gotthardt, CEO

Katherine Gotthardt, M.Ed., writing concentration, has been writing, editing and teaching for more than twenty years. For the past ten years, she has focused on content development and content marketing for small to mid-size businesses, writing and disseminating material that increases client visibility while supporting their brand. Besides being published in dozens of journals, Katherine has authored five books: Poems from the Battlefield, Furbily-Furld Takes on the World, Approaching Felonias Park, Weaker Than Water and Bury Me Under a Lilac. Learn more about her creative life at www.KatherineGotthardt.com.