The hidden consequences of using jargon

  • Jargon can potentially confuse, annoy or erode trust.
  • This article examines the three reasons why we use jargon and three potential consequences.

Hand holding pen with letters trailing out against wall

Jargon is all around us. Everyone is moving the needle, pivoting and thinking outside the square. Ironically the term thinking outside the square was first used in the 1970s, so if you are still using this metaphor, perhaps you are not demonstrating the innovative and creative thinking qualities you are looking for in others. As there are hidden consequences to using jargon, let’s look at the three reason why we use jargon and the potential consequences.

Avoidance

Sometimes people default to jargon when they have something to hide. We often see this when companies refer to cutting jobs (that is, making people unemployed) as ‘downsizing’ or ‘rightsizing’. In December 2018, General Motors took this to a whole new level when they referred to the closure of five plants in the United States and Canada — with a loss of up to 14,000 jobs — as being unallocated — instead of saying words like ‘sack’, ‘closure’ or’ job losses’, they referred to these factories and people as ‘unallocated’.

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