Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

Have you ever felt that you just don’t understand what someone is telling you about their business or profession?

No matter how attentively you listen, their message isn’t getting through. You hesitate to ask questions or to seek clarification for fear you might be considered a dim bulb. The fault is not with you. It’s with the business. They’re putting out messages, but you’re not receiving. The result is communication gridlock.

Chances are the business is messaging in a different language.

Businesses are comfortable using words and phrases generic to them. The jargon a business uses internally is prone to spill over into its marketing and messaging. People involved in the business or closely associated with it understand the jargon. Those outside the loop are clueless. Using jargon in messaging is not an effective way to communicate with the general public.

I frequently encounter jargon speakers. I like to challenge them to translate what they’re saying into layperson language. It’s an entertaining exercise and it feeds the ornery streak in me. To help jargon messengers see things from the other side, I sometimes toss out one of my favorite sayings: I know you believe you understand what you thought you heard me say, but I’m not sure that you realize that what you heard is not what I meant. Get it?

Many businesses in the shadows would be of great interest to the public if the public clearly understood their messaging Jargon is keeping those businesses out of sight. They’re in the shadows because of the inability or unwillingness of owners to communicate effectively. When told of the problem, some owners offer a defensive response. “Well, the public needs to learn more about my industry to fully appreciate what we’re doing.”


It’s not the responsibility of current or prospective customers/clients to learn more about your industry in your terms so that they can understand you.

It’s the responsibility of each business to communicate messages in ways that the recipients understand. That means crafting marketing messages using words, phrases and images that target audiences immediately relate to. It means embracing clarity and dumping jargon.

Admittedly, there is jargon in my profession. We’re jargon junkies. But if I communicated with clients the same way I communicate with colleagues in my field, the clients might be thinking that I’ve finally jumped the rails.

Mixing business abbreviations and insider acronyms in with jargon messaging can result in terminal communications gridlock. Social media language changes faster than Payton Manning calls plays. Clients/customers shouldn’t be expected to understand all the social media references and PR ( that’s public relations) jargon. They do expect straight-forward messaging with forthright answers, explanations and proposals with no jargon or business-insider asides.

The mid-term elections are over (thank goodness), but there are communication lessons to be learned from what took place over the past several months. Did you vote for candidates who spoke directly, who were clear and candid on what they believed and what they wanted to do? Or did you go with candidates regurgitating nonsensical political jargon?

If your business is one of those still in the shadows, shine a little light on your products or services. Eliminate communication gridlock to really showcase what you have to offer. Capture the moment and make it yours.

Clarity and understanding are keys to effective communication . Jargon, abbreviations and acronyms lead to communication gridlock. Relieving that gridlock is good for your business.

Let jargon RIP.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.

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