Academic jargon: Keep things simple

If you’re a subject-matter expert, it’s a good time to be communicating. People no longer believe leaders are telling the truth, reports the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer. The public is more likely to turn to other sources, such as academic experts, whom they rate highly credible.

But you can alienate your audience from the start if you indulge in jargon. Consider how the venerable publication, The Economist, begins its style guide: “The first requirement of The Economist is that it should be readily understandable. Clarity of writing usually follows clarity of thought. So think what you want to say, then say it as simply as possible.”

Many great thinkers and writers have said as much, including Albert Einstein — “If you can’t explain it to a 6-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” — and Leonardo da Vinci — “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Did you know that if you use jargon, 74 percent of people will think you don’t understand your own words? A clever infographic shows how people respond to jargon. Only 21 percent of people are happy to work with people who lace their conversations with jargon. And half of all people think you’re using jargon to sound smart!

With 1 billion smartphones in use, a million apps floating around, and thousands of advertising messages beaming at us daily, not to mention social media – you’ve got to work hard to get your messages through. Rule No. 1: Keep things simple!


About Andrea Brunais

Communications Director, Outreach & International Affairs
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