Communication skills

Ten tips on how to avoid business jargon

- October 10, 2007 2 MIN READ

Business jargon can be misleading, confusing and boring, but as a soloist it is a trap we can easily fall into without even realising it. Here are ten tips on how to avoid business jargon and learn to speak a language your clients will understand.

When we talk about business jargon we are generally referring to one of two things words that are peculiar to a trade or words that are pretentious, unintelligible or gibberish. And sometimes we can experience a spectacular combination of the two.

If you have a conversation with someone in your own profession using terms understood by both of you, then great. No problems there. However if you are using specific industry words or phases when speaking to a client who isn’t in the same industry as you, their eyes may glaze over or their brow might furrow. Quite possibly they will be walking away, ready to give their business to someone who cares enough to communicate with them properly.

I have a client currently working with a web designer who uses business jargon like it’s going out of style. And considering the rapid pace of web development, it probably is. Phrases like ‘interface’, ‘scope’, ‘functionality’ and ‘navigation structure’ may seem normal for someone involved in the area, but it sends my client into fits of fury during every meeting.

While it is quite possible that the web designer is excellent at his job and quotes in accordance with standard rates, the combination of technical and pompous business jargon leaves my client feeling manipulated.

The web designer might say something like “We can interface regarding the infrastructure as documented in the scope – particularly the functionality of the navigation bar in order to create leverage.”

When all he had to say was “We can talk about how the whole website will be set up – particularly the main menu that leads to other pages. I can show you how we can make it easier for your website visitor and create more business for you.”

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Some people use business jargon to sound important or to inhibit someone else and others use it to impress a client as a way to justify high fees. But many of us fall into the business jargon trap without even realising we are doing it. With so much industry specialisation going on, it is understandable for accidental business jargon to surface from time to time.

Here are ten tips on how to avoid the business jargon trap

1. Don’t use acronyms unless they really are common knowledge.

2. When writing, try editing what you want to say in half and you’ll be amazed by what’s not needed.

3. Pick up the phone rather than using email, as real conversations can help you get to the point.

4. Use simple detail to support a proposal, it builds more confidence than hype.

5. Give your client clear options, they will feel more in control which helps create trust.

6. Be conscious of the clock, respect the other person’s time and cut to the chase.

7. Listen to the words your client uses and build an explanation bridge from their terms to yours.

8. Watch your client’s face for signs of doubt or confusion so you know when to clarify a point.

9. Test your message on a friend or relative not in your industry.

10. Persuade with warmth and honesty rather than buzzwords.

As well as being confusing, business jargon can destroy a sense of trust. Straight-talk injected with a little humour, and maybe a story to illustrate a point, will create more success for your business simply because your clients will understand what you are saying.

So don’t be afraid to be real. It’s time to demystify that gobbledygook and win more business.

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"