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The incivility of jargon (goobledygook)

“The two words ‘information' and ‘communication' are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.”
--Sydney Harris, American journalist and author (1917-1986)

Today in this hurry-up world, our messages need to be clear, precise, unambiguous and free of jargon, clichés and goobledygook.

First thoughts for any communication
Whom am I talking to and how much do I know or can I learn about that audience?

What’s in it for that audience? What does that group want to know or how will this communication help them? I try to think as if I’m a member of that audience. If I were a …………..

Will that person understand the jargon? (Do I understand the jargon in my organization?) I could be writing to customers, coworkers or shareholders. I need to communicate to others clearly and efficiently to get any point across.

In my opinion one peek into an organization’s communication may tell you about its values and quality. If the communication is efficient and mindful of the audience, the company is likely to be run the same way.

Those of us who write and edit for a living work hard to get to plain understandable words. And we still get caught up in the jargon and goobledygook.

Woodrow Wilson, twenty-eighth President of the United States (1856-1924), said it well: “If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.”

Buzzwords, misuses of language and punctuation
I go through cycles of the top word or punctuation I can not stand and I undoubtedly overreact to edit them out. At the top of my current list are
‘Utilize’ when often the correct word is ‘use’
Every thing is an ‘opportunity’ (It’s a nice word that’s highly overused.)
‘Regarding’ or ‘in regard to’—often the word should be ‘about’
People as ‘resources’
Colons everywhere::::::
The use of exclamation marks is declining, thank goodness!
Acronyms for everything

What goobledygook or misused terms, words or punctuation are on your list?

The Gobbledygook Manifesto -- Cutting Edge! Mission Critical! An analysis of gobbledygook in more than 388,000 press releases sent in 2006


Okay, I'll go first. We can make this a "napkin story" because I'll bet we all have pet peeves. Mine is ending prepositional phrases with the wrong pronoun--as in "with Sara and I" picky-picky-picky but it drives me nuts! Apparently others did NOT have Miss (no Ms. in those days) Kasischke for JH English, who told us to drop the name and try it out with just the pronoun if we weren't sure!

And don't even get me started on "to-two-too", "your-you're" and "its-it's"!!


Nice post. I think it is important for an organization to consider its communications strategy.

But I do not agree with the Sydney Harris comment. Information is not "giving out". Information is a building block for knowledge and wisdom.

Information + context = knowledge.

Knowledge + experience = wisdom (or the potential for wisdom).

For me, communication is the ability to create collective thought, reflection and discussion.

"Giving Out" is just poor communication.

Overuse of adjectives is on my current list. For example, very pretty. Something or someone is pretty or not. And when will "you know" disappear from people's vocabularies. I've also noticed "a" being used ad nauseam. It makes me think people haven't a clue what they are going to say and they are stalling for time.