Keeping content interesting in a jargon-filled world

Some content creators have it harder than others. They work in a world where proper naming of people, places and processes is essential for accuracy, for legal reasons or to please a higher authority like a boss or a profession. Universities are bad about this, so is the military, and so are some businesses – particularly highly regulated ones. Jargon matters to the communicator, but confuses the audience. You get lead sentences like this:

Assistant Director of the Employee Assistance Program and Division Director for the Corporate Image Program John N. Utz stood over the cardboard box in his James Patton Russell Building office unpacking stacks of white T-shirts with the logo of the program’s Look Before you Speak campaign, designed to encourage employees to remember to be smart on social media.

Yuck.

This kind of writing is kind to the corporate mindset that creates it. But it is terrible for the audience. If your writing life calls for lengthy descriptions and identifications, here are a few things that may help:

  • Stick to the essentials. In our example above, the talented Mr. Utz has two titles – one about corporate image and one about employee assistance. Only one matters for this story – the corporate image one. Can you leave the other out?

 

  • Move to the bottom when possible. If you have to use all of Mr. Utz’s honorifics, put the non-related things at the very bottom. At the end of the story, write “Utz is also director of the Employee Assistance Program”

 

  • Move to a subsequent reference if not. If you are referring to a person several times in the piece, break the identification up and  spread out the pain. For example,

Corporate Image Program Division Director John Utz stood in his office unpacking stacks of white  T-shirts he hopes will remind employees to be smart on social media. Utz, who also is the Assistant Director of the Employee Assistance Program,  filled his office with the “Look Before you Speak” campaign logo.

Fight the good fight against jargon. But if you lose, at least try to make it as painless as possible. Your readers will thank you.

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