Should you use jargon in your copywriting?
If you’ve spent more than a hot minute in business circles, you’ve heard someone say it, usually while turning up their nose in disgust:
“Don’t use jargon. You’ll lose people. You’ll turn them off. You will flush sales down the toilet. You will shame the marketing community forevermore, and your children will not respect you.”
Well folks, I’m here to tell you: Ignore that.
And if anyone insists on it, shun ’em harder than a telemarketer’s number that shows up during family dinner.
I’m here to tell you, once and for all:
There are times when using jargon is the smartest thing to do.
Put down that pitchfork sharpening kit for a second and let me break this down for you:
Let’s use this operating definition of jargon: “Special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand.”
Now… imagine you’re sitting down for lunch with a table of avid hockey fans who are chattering away about the game last night. Problem: you’ve never watched a hockey game in your life. The conversation starts coming toward you, and you panic.
“Hey ___________, did y’see how Chara rang Gaudreau off the dasher in the third? Total goon play from a massive pylon – and the zebras completely missed it! I think he’s lookin’ at 5 – 10 games, what do you think?”
Now, if you respond to this question with,
“I say, he is rather an impish brute, and the thunderous body collision surely caused cranial damage!”
You are OUT.
You are so far out that you will probably never be asked a question about hockey again – unless the table needs something to laugh at. What you said is technically true – and a completely valid opinion. But how you said it made it obvious you aren’t a hockey person, and thus, you’re not really part of the table’s camaraderie.
Now imagine that the reason you were sitting at that table was to try and sell those people a subscription to a hockey channel.
Yeah, your numbers aren’t going to look so good.
In situations like these, this is you:
You might look (sort of) like they do, but the minute they pay attention to what you’re saying, you start losing credibility and sales.
It’s not enough to be able to explain the benefits of your offer – you need to say it in a way that hits home for the listener.
Here are the big two reasons you should make use of jargon:
- It signals that you belong, and understand your audience, and…
- It acts as an IMMEDIATE filter, getting rid of any leads you don’t want (because they simply don’t get it)
As I noted in my last post, I’m a big proponent of stealing your messaging right from your audience (in fact, Jen Havice recently published an amazing book on how to turn customer research into sticky messaging that converts. It’s WELL worth your $6 for the Kindle version. Go buy it – I’ll wait.)
Your job is absorb the way your customers talk – whether through surveys, interviews, testimonials, reviews or candid conversations online – steal their sticky phrases, and work them into your copy to improve conversions.
- Conduct an interview, or send out a short survey
- Record responses
- Review the way your audience about their problems, ideal solutions and experiences
- Work that into your copy – jargon and all
When shouldn’t you use jargon?
Simple: When it’s yours, not your audience’s.
The big mistake with using jargon is assuming your audience knows what you know.
The easiest way to avoid this? Have a conversation with a customer.
- If they don’t use the words you use, don’t use those words.
- If their face scrunches up with confusion at any point, don’t explain things that way again.
- If they have to ask you to explain yourself, avoid explaining it the way you already have when trying to sell
If you take nothing else away from this post, make it this: Your audience uses, loves and expects jargon.
Just not yours.