‘That word is scary.’
In this case, scary often means ‘I don’t understand it.’ Or ‘It’s confusing’. Writers can spend hours crafting sentences and deciding on words to find the right one. The one that carries with it meaning far beyond the letters it contains. Fiction writers are particularly good at this sending our imagination wildly creating scenes in our head as we read. However, many words have meaning shaped by the culture they are created or evolve in. And yet, there is a part of us that expect it in fiction writing. Some of us even read fiction or poetry to learn new words.
However, in non-fiction it’s a different story. Here we tend to not enjoy it. We usually call it jargon. The Cambridge dictionary defines jargon as “language used by a particular group of people, especially in their work, and which most other people do not understand.” Here our imagination is not fed, more often jargon feeds our shame. We feel like an outsider. It separates.
And because it triggers shame, we tend not to ask what the word means. We smile and nod without knowing what we are smiling and nodding about.
And yet, it is hard not to use jargon. Within a group or industry, terms evolve over time to become full of and laden with layers of meaning. They are rich words for a select few. Jargon also develops to communicate succinctly.
So when we seek to bring about change, the less jargon, the better. Change triggers enough shame on its own, we don’t need to pile on more with jargon. And yes, this may mean we need to be direct and use simple language. But no, simple, accessible language does not mean we are ‘dumbing down’ our message. It might just mean we care enough about our audience and our subject matter to communicate well.
The choice is up to us.