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Friday, 29 January 2010

Is David Brent sabotaging your PR?

word cloud of business jargon

Jargon and abbreviations are a handy shortcut when communicating with fellow specialists, but it excludes others. That's why jargon is a serious barrier to general communications and PR.

In a world where budgets need to be signed off by a variety of specialists, including finance departments, we would argue that jargon is an expensive liability, not an asset.

Clients sometimes say they have to prove to clients that they can speak the technical lingo. That's fine. But please don't hit people with incomprehensible jargon on the main web pages. There's a place for technical language and it's in technical papers and reports.

The Internet gives us the ability to layer information, so those needing more detail can click through to increasingly denser layers.

Even when speaking to technical specialists, nowadays there are so many narrow specialisms. It's quite likely that two similarly qualified engineers could baffle each other with jargon. But would they admit that? Or gloss over the point?
Why risk it?

Jargon simply doesn't foster useful or productive business relationships.

In general business areas, jargon has crept in as a form of one-up-man-ship. People use ridiculous jargon to signal they're up with the latest management fads, as satirised so mercilessly by the David Brent character in 'The Office' TV series a few years ago.

Since that programme, many people associate 'management-speak' with idiots who may harbour a penchant for bad break-dancing!

A recent Accountemps survey of 150 top US executives listed the following top annoying jargon words:

Reach out
It is what it is
Game changer
Circle back

Words on the list that also appeared in their earlier (2004) survey were:

At the end of the day
Think outside the box
On the same page

Sad to say, almost of all of these words have been suggested to us for inclusion in web copy.

The David Brents live on...

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posted by Penny Haywood Calder at


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