Jargon: Tired, Overused, and Abused

I hate jargon. I really, truly despise it. And when it shows up in my writing, I just want to scream. It’s really easy to slip into using jargon when you’re searching for something to say. Believe me, we’re all guilty of it. But, it’s never a substitute for content. The best defense: edit yourself and revise your writing so that you eliminate jargon before you publish anything. Otherwise you will suffer the consequence of embarrassment, and that can last forever.

Check out this list of tired, overused, and abused clichés and avoid using every single one of them. Believe me, you’ll thank me for it later.

Core of my being — If you run across this in written form, just click the back button and close the book on that one. If you actually hear the phrase spoken aloud, exit the coffee shop you’re in immediately and make sure the woman wearing the Sylvia Plath t-shirt isn’t following you.

Think outside the box — If you can’t think of another phrase to use, you should be stuffed inside a box.

Quantum leap — Unless you’re a physicist, you really have no business using this word at all. Avoid it, period.

Paradigm shift — Finding a new way to shaft the consumer is not a paradigm shift. That’s business as usual. If and when you actually encounter a paradigm shift, then, by all means, feel free to use the term.

Granular — If someone says a report needs to be more granular, don’t hesitate, just kick them in the, well, you can imagine where you should kick them. Granular is a word used by corporate weenies because they think it makes them sound more … intelligent.

Confidence is high — If you’ve ever used that in a sentence, you were the one who was probably high.

Manage expectations — What this really means is: “We don’t know if this will work, so let’s make sure that if we fail, we can say that we expected this might fail.” What? Just say what you mean. Let people manage their own expectations.

Credibility gap — Political speak for calling any one group a bunch of bloody stinking liars. Seriously? They’re politicians. They lie for a living. Oxymoron.

Critical mass — Again, unless you’re a physicist, stay away from their lingo.

Irregardless — WTF? This isn’t a word. Never was. Never will be. I still don’t know why people try to use that non-word in a sentence. Just don’t use it.

Billionaire Writer Declines Editorial Help

I recently came across this entry on the blog of Dragonfly Editorial making the case of why all writers, no matter how great they are, need great editors to tighten and improve their work. See if you agree:

“Matthew Baldwin at Defective Yeti has apparently been reading my mind. He recently wrote about his dismay that J.K. Rowling’s fourth and fifth books in the Harry Potter series, The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix, appeared to have received little to no editing. As Baldwin puts it, the two books: … were released at the height of [Rowling’s] popularity, and it was clear that no one dared edit The Sacred Word of Potter; as the result, the books were long, rambling, unfocused, and boring.

I’d stop short of saying the books were boring; however, I found it painful to find bloated narrative diluting what had previously been clean, lively writing — a sure sign that Ms. Rowling had succumbed to the same famous-author-no-longer-needs-an-editor syndrome that had taken down Anne Rice.

I found myself wishing that when Ms. Rowling had turned in her manuscript, a tough but kindly gentleman editor had sat down with her and said (in a British accent, of course): “See here, J.K., this is a lovely first draft, but you’ve got to cut it by at least a third. Go back to the basics, darling! Ask yourself sentence by sentence, can this be tighter? Can this be cut? Can this go away completely?”

No matter how good a writer is, no matter how brilliant the words, copy must be edited to make it clean, clear, and concise. There simply is no question about it. And writers who are offended by this step in the process are probably in the wrong profession.