A defense of jargon in quality content: did we just say that?

Defending jargon as part of quality content (sort of)

Can use of jargon help improve quality content?

In 1981, my sister and I went to the movie theater to see Stripes, a film starring Bill Murray and co-starring Harold Ramis. Murray plays a character whose life was going nowhere: he’d just lost his job, his car was being repossessed and his girlfriend was bailing on him. So, he and his friend, played by Ramis, decide to join the US Army.

The recruiter asks them if they’ve ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor; after a pregnant pause, Murray, says, “Convicted? No.” Ramis chimes in with “Never convicted” before the two men exchange a knowing smirk.

Ever since we’ve seen this comedy, my sister and I have used the phrase “Convicted? No” to let the other one know, in a public situation, that someone else was not sharing the entire story. So, in a sense, that phrase is jargon in that it’s specialized language that has meaning within a group (although, granted, this group is pretty darned small). Two small words convey a world of meaning and can take the place of a potentially awkward conversation.

So, do we need to rethink the mantra of “all jargon is bad” in blogging? Or am I letting one memorable moment from an enjoyable movie lead me down the wrong path?

Jargon definition

As step one, I looked up the jargon definition(s) at the Free Dictionary and these were the results:

  1. Nonsensical, incoherent, or meaningless talk.
  2. A hybrid language or dialect; a pidgin.
  3. The specialized or technical language of a trade, profession, or similar group.
  4. Speech or writing having unusual or pretentious vocabulary, convoluted phrasing, and vague meaning.

Few people would say (I have to believe!) that jargon under the first definition has value in a blog post; the same with number four. But, depending upon your blog’s audience, jargon as defined under number three might have a place in your text.

Types of audiences

What kind of jargon can you use based on audience type?

Broadly speaking, there are three types of blog audiences:

  • B2B (business to business)
  • B2C (business to consumer)
  • Peer/colleague

And, in one type, using jargon can make good sense. Here’s the breakdown.

Peer/colleague audience


  • you are writing to an audience of others in your profession
  • you don’t have significant secondary audiences that might be confused by industry-speak
  • your blog audience consists of people with roughly the same level of expertise as you have

Then, using industry jargon makes sense. And, if:

  • you are writing to an audience of others in your profession
  • you don’t have significant secondary audiences that might be confused by industry-speak
  • your blog audience consists of people with less expertise than you have

Then, using industry jargon can make sense IF:

  • understanding jargon definitions will help your readers advance in their professional lives
  • you provide clear and helpful definitions of the terms

B2C audience

On the far other end of the audience spectrum is the B2C audience. In this case, I still believe that using industry jargon is seldom, if ever, helpful. (If someone has an example of jargon use that improves a B2C blog, please post it in the comments. I’m not being sarcastic here, either! I’d really like to see examples.)

And, I haven’t seen a better explanation of why jargon is a bad idea in this context than what appears in Write Online, a content marketing company from England; it’s worth repeating:

Basically your content isn’t working because you’re NOT thinking about your target audience. And you can put this down to three fundamentally dangerous habits or deadly sins:

  1. You confuse readers with excessive JARGON ­– specialist words and expressions that only people in the know can understand.
  2. You use PAROCHIALISMS ­– things that mean something to you but nothing the reader.
  3. You assume readers already know particular ACRONYMS and INITIALISMS – abbreviations formed from the initial letters of other words.

B2B audience

If you blog to a B2B audience, you probably face the biggest challenge of all when deciding whether or not to use a term that might be defined as jargon-y. Here’s why. Let’s say that you sell a technical widget. Buyers of this widget can’t be put neatly into categories; they might include, among others:

  • Engineers who are eager to hear about technical topics on your blog
  • Company buyers who may or may not understand all of the finer points of your industry but would like to educate themselves about them
  • Small business owners, some of whom have a solid understanding of technology – and some who don’t

No one-size-fits-all solution exists in this situation but, in this hypothetical example, consider:

  • Identifying what is considered jargon by talking to others outside of your industry; what terms and acronyms are familiar to them? Which ones are totally unfamiliar?
  • Once you’ve identified what others might consider industry jargon, use those terms only when absolutely necessary for clarity AND
  • Create a glossary for those who need jargon definitions; note that we’re recommending this for usability, NOT saying that the glossary will provide SEO benefits to your site

If you haven’t already read 2014: The Year of the Audience, we suggest that you do. And, please leave your comments about the role of jargon in quality content in the comments below. Thanks!



2018-06-14T21:07:33+00:00January 24th, 2014|0 Comments

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