Writing Tips: Jargon

Call out the obfuscators

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Our language is being abused by politicians, business leaders, bureaucrats and others, and we should challenge them. In the current profusion of information, particularly on social media, we are liable to be confused and deceived, at least for a time. This conspiracy of obfuscation is dangerous. However, it is unlikely to win in the end […]

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Why wouldn’t you want to be clear?

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The obvious answer is – if you want to mislead. A fascinating study published in the US Journal of Language and Social Psychology suggests that when scientists’ research turns out to be fraudulent, the language is often a giveaway. Two researchers at Stanford University, California, studied more than 250 scientific papers that had been found […]

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When your audience doesn’t understand

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We often hear people say: “That’s not jargon; everyone knows what it means.” But do they really? One of our clients was giving a presentation recently when he noticed that several of his audience appeared to be distracted by their mobiles. Eventually he caught the eye of one as he looked up from his phone. […]

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Phabulous news – phablet’s in the dictionary!

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A quick phablet update for all phablet fans. It’s made it into Oxford Dictionaries Online. Note that this is not the same thing as the much-adored Oxford English Dictionary. The ODO updates faster, adding new words much more regularly than the OED. Other new additions are selfie, and omnishambles coined by The Thick of It […]

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Cascading jargon

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In a recent Guardian article, Steven Poole had an enjoyable dig at office jargon. Among other things, he suggested that asking for something by “end of play” might be “trying to hypnotise you into thinking you are having fun”. I am similarly suspicious of the corporate fondness for prettifying everyday tasks and functions, the word […]

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More financial crisis jargon

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It’s been a few months since my post on PIIGS and BRICs, so I thought I’d update you on the latest financial crisis jargon. “Grexit” (Greek exit from the Eurozone) from last time has been joined by “Brixit” (British exit from the EU. It also appears less frequently as “Brexit”), “Spexit” (Spanish exit) and the […]

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Animal metaphors

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I am indebted to my friend the author Adam Jacot for some animal metaphors that have surfaced in management circles. You may be familiar with “boiled frog syndrome”, “lipstick on a pig” and “elephant in the room”, for which “moose on the table” seems to be an alternative, presumably among Canadians. But unless you are […]

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PIIGS might not fly, but BRICs can

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If you’ve been anywhere near a paper or television at any time in the last eight or nine months, you will have heard something about problems in the Eurozone. While the last major financial crisis left us with a lot of complicated jargon to digest (can anyone remember the difference between a CDS and a […]

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