“Hey Brad, what’s the CTR on that omnichannel growth hacking infographic?”
“Gee, Sally, I don’t know. Is that part of the remarketing campaign we designed the storyscape for last week?”
Tell you a secret…
I fucking strongly dislike jargon.
Mainly because I can never remember it all. At meetings, I sometimes need to Google to remind myself what it means, so I’m sat there looking up business-speak on my phone instead of joining the conversation. (“What’s a vertical? I forgot…”)
Makes me feel like the only kid in the gang who has to check Urban Dictionary to find out what “Netflix and chill” really means. 😉
But I’m gonna set aside my personal issues with jargon for now, and focus on giving you exactly what the title of this post promises: your ultimate guide to when and how to use jargon in freelance blogging, and when to avoid it entirely.
Just in case we’re not on the same page yet, jargon is specialist language used by a specific group or type of person, often in a business or academic setting.
And part of what defines it as jargon is the fact that it only makes sense to the specialists who already know and use it.
In other words, most people on the planet *don’t* use it and have no idea what it means.
So, first of all, the golden rule is simple:
Avoid Jargon Unless You’re Writing for its Users
Yep, just don’t do it. Purposely choose not to use any jargon, and don’t let it slip into your posts by accident.
What to do instead?
Use other words — REAL words that normal people use — to describe whatever you want to say.
If you’re not sure whether you’re using jargon or not, there’s an easy way to check:
- Show your post to other humans if you have willing volunteers.
- Ask them to tell you if anything sounds weird or isn’t immediately clear.
- Then change those words or phrases to simpler ones.
You don’t get a free pass if you can’t find any volunteers, either. Just read it out loud to yourself, and change anything that an average 14-year-old wouldn’t understand.
I hope you enjoyed your Ultimate Guide to jargon in freelance blogging!
(Nah, I’m joking. I’ve got more for you…)
When *Should* You Use Jargon?
When you’re writing for an audience of experts who know, use, and expect to read this specific set of jargon.
Oh, yeah, there are lots of different collections of jargon.
One for each stream and substream of the sciences, like astrophysics or genetics or neuropsychology.
One for each industry, and different roles inside industries: mechanics, hairstylists, window fitters, McDonalds crew members… until you feel dizzy, and then there are still more!
Luckily, you don’t need to know ANY of this jargon to enjoy an awesome freelance blogging career.
If you ever need to write a post for a specialist audience, you can just research their particular set of jargon before you start writing.
So here’s something to always ask a client before you start working on a project:
Is this for a specialist audience? Do you want me to avoid using jargon, or explain any jargon that I use?”
If they say they want jargon included, then you can hit up Google for a vocabulary guide, or ask to talk to a member of the client’s team to learn more.
Use Jargon with Explanations
This is the only way to be sure that even people who aren’t specialists will be able to understand any jargon you include in your posts. Here’s how it works:
- You write the post and feel free to use jargon appropriate to the topic.
- After finalising the post content, you go back and explain each jargon word or phrase once, the first time it’s used in your post.
- Not sure how to add your explanations? You can simply insert them in parentheses (those curved symbols around an add-on phrase or sentence, like this one).
Using jargon and then having to explain every piece of it at least once per post gets pretty damn tiresome after a while, though, so you might still want to keep the jargon to a minimum.
Use Common Jargon and Explain the Rest
This is a way to short-cut past explaining most of the jargon in your writing, if you actually *need* to use jargon.
So what you do is:
- Establish a minimum level of jargon awareness for your audience. What jargon do they use so often that they’ve actually forgotten all other ways to express those ideas? (If you don’t know: Ask the client!)
- Write your post and feel free to use appropriate jargon.
- After finalising the post content, go back and explain ONLY the jargon that isn’t on your list of “jargon this audience already uses”.
This is how I write stuff for some of my tech clients. They feel that *not* using any jargon would make them sound like amateurs, and explaining all the jargon would make the post clunky and condescending. So I explain only the jargon that more than half their audience might be unfamiliar with, and that strikes a reasonable balance.
OK, this time I’m finished for realz.
With the guidelines above, you should have no trouble figuring out whether or not to include jargon in your posts, and how to use it if you’re definitely going to include it.
So now, it’s your turn…
We Want to Hear YOUR Ideas
In case you’re not familiar, Pitchfest is a blog post pitching contest we run here on Be a Freelance Blogger every three months. You tell us your blog post idea and we choose our favorites, with prizes of up to $100 for the winners.
The contest starts today.
Your Theme for This Pitchfest
This time we’re looking for pitches on the theme of “jargon in X niche / topic / industry”.
Your pitch can be based around any niche, topic, or industry you choose. All we want you to do is plan a post for our audience of freelance bloggers, in which you’ll explain some jargon that’s useful for them to know.
And we’re defining “useful” as anything that meets at least 1 of these 4 targets:
- Help freelance bloggers run their businesses.
- Help freelance bloggers grow their businesses.
- Help freelance bloggers serve their clients better.
- Help freelance bloggers write better posts for their clients’ audiences.
You could share your personal knowledge of the jargon of a job role you’ve filled before, or talk to a specialist in some field or other to find out what jargon they use, or research a specific industry’s jargon online.
We’re looking forward to seeing what YOU come up with.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Your pitch must be focused on serving our audience of freelance bloggers. Whatever idea you present to us HAS to benefit freelance bloggers in some way, and we need to see that benefit explained in your pitch.
- Anybody can enter the contest by typing (or pasting) their pitch into the comments box at the bottom of this page.
- Only ONE PITCH per person, please.
- Follow the pitch format I’ll tell you in a moment.
- After you submit your pitch, Lauren and/or I will offer feedback to help you optimize your idea for this blog’s audience and improve your pitching skills. You may also get feedback from other entrants, BAFB team members, and innocent bystanders — pay attention, because they represent your readers here.
- After you get our feedback, you can revise your pitch if you like and re-submit it by pasting it into a follow-up comment. And yes, that means you can offer us a completely different idea if we’ve told you your first idea definitely won’t work for this blog.
- If you win, we’ll ask you to send us a draft of at least 1000 words, so bear that minimum word count in mind when you pitch.
- First prize: $100 for your guest post, paid via PayPal on publication.
- Second prize: $50 for your guest post, paid via PayPal on publication.
- Third prize: A “flash mentoring” session — 20 minutes with Sophie via IM.
- Submit your pitch before the end of Saturday, September 29th, 2018.
- We’ll announce the winners on October 6th, 2018.
- If we choose your pitch, we expect you to deliver your first draft to Lauren by October 31st (spooky!). But if you need a little longer, let us know and we’ll work around it.
How to pitch
- Read our general guest blogging guidelines first, then come back here to submit your pitch.
- Suggest at least one headline designed to make freelance bloggers want to read your post.
- Follow the headline with the opening lines you’d use in the post. No less than 30 words, no more than 60. You DON’T need to write a whole post (or even a whole introduction) before you pitch — we’d like to give you feedback on your idea before you write a draft.
- After the opening lines, give us no more than 6 points you’ll make in your post, and provide a one or two sentence summary of each point. If you plan to make more than 6 points in your post (and we expect you might, if you’re creating a guide to jargon words and phrases), only tell us the most important 6 in your pitch.
- Then explain in no more than 3 sentences why this is a great post for Be a Freelance Blogger and why you’re the right person to write it.
- Put your pitch in the comment box at the bottom of this page.
- Check the little box that says “Notify me of follow-up comments” so you’ll know when we’ve given you feedback.
- Submit your comment and if you followed all the steps above, you’re entered into the contest.
- It’s a good idea to explain how your pitch reflects the theme we’ve set for you — unless it’s blindingly obvious, in which case you can probably assume we’ll see the connection without extra signposting.
- Remember to tell us why you think your idea will interest the people who read Be a Freelance Blogger.
- To get a better sense of what we’re looking for in your pitch, study the pitches and responses in previous Pitchfests.
- Save a copy of your pitch somewhere before you post it here — if your comment gets lost in the internet, you don’t wanna have to re-write it from scratch.
- Your comment may get held in a moderation queue, especially if it contains hyperlinks. Don’t worry if that happens; we’ll get to it and reply!
OK, it’s time.
Let the Pitchfest begin!