I used to sign off my emails 'KR' - Kinds Regards - perhaps I was being lazy or just miserly with letters. I did it for years. That was until one day, someone said ‘Does that stand for Keep Rocking?’😱😱. Mortified, I quickly reverted to ‘Kind Regards’ to ensure that I wasn’t mistaken for an aging fan of the Quo or The Who.
But it did get me thinking about abbreviations, buzz words and jargon. The purists will tell you that it’s an absolute no-no. Under no circumstances should one ever lower oneself to using vocabulary or terms, the meaning of which aren’t immediately clear to everyone involved.
And, on face value, that strikes me as kind of sensible I guess. I’ve written about tone of voice here a couple of times and the importance of being clear and engaging to readers. When I worked on AIB’s new tone of voice we said categorically that there was to be no use of jargon.
What if everyone speaks the same jargon?
Could it be argued that ‘jargon’ is relative? If I walk onto the flight deck of a 747 or into an operating theatre, as an outsider, I’m unlikely to understand a word they’re saying to each other. But THEY all do. And if the proverbial hits the fan in either of those scenarios I’d like to see them get things done quickly and efficiently. And as long as everyone in the situation speaks the same language, that’s exactly what happens. Perhaps using jargon in certain scenarios can speed up communication, removing unnecessary words and letters and ensuring that required actions can happen as quickly and effectively as possible.
I never read the Ts and Cs
We see more and more of them - about three or four times a month on iPhone alone - and I just click accept and move on. They’re too long and they don’t make sense to me. I also just can’t be bothered - I’ve better things to be doing with my day.
Let's think about consumer financial services for a second. This is a sector which has been in a bit of a mire for some years now. You could argue that in some of those cases, it was jargon - formal, unclear and legalese language - that got them into that mess in the first place.
I know from friends and contacts and ex-colleagues that, today, the banks are going out of their way to simplify their Ts and Cs. They want to make them more accessible and easier to understand and it makes business sense. Where a customer does actually bother to read the terms and conditions of a product (there are a few of you out there I believe), simplifying and stripping them of jargon makes it easier for the customer to make a purchase decision. And if, after the fact, there’s a bit of a disagreement about what was agreed to, then clearer simpler language will help to ensure that the organisation can prove its side of a disagreement.
However, that being as it may, I still wonder if there’s a time and a place in which it’s OK to go down the jargon route. It is a bit of a minefield. Deciding to ‘Break the rules’ and ‘Do whatever you want’ may lead to some ‘Burning Bridges’.
Perhaps you should ‘Roll over and lay down’?
You’ll have to decide what’s right for you and your audience.
PS - Just to totally, 100% clarify, I am not a Status Quo fan! 😀