Jargon in business publications alienates customers

By: Leigh Goessl
15 December, 2009

Using business jargon is common amongst colleagues in specific industries, but the acronyms, language and lingo spoken in these circles is typically not so well known outside the internal organisation or industry.

When writing to customers, it is a bad idea to include any jargon in the body of a business letter. The reasons for this are numerous, but the primary ones include the fact that including jargon could lead to frustration, misunderstandings, and barriers, and – worst of all – generate a level of mistrust towards a company.

The whole premise for sending out letters to customers is to try and connect with them, share information they may find of value, and offer them opportunities to fulfill a want or need.

Chances are that including jargon within the text of these outreach letters is not going to dazzle or impress, but will instead be a total turnoff.

Here's why:

When customers receive letters full of jargon they don't understand, they're going to become frustrated and likely toss your letter straight in the trash. After all, who wants to read a letter full of nonsensical information that is not useful?

Solution: Rewording a business letter to be written in layman's terminology that is clear, concise and useful is going to generate a far better positive response.

Customers who cannot understand what's being communicated to them may attempt to try to decipher the message themselves, and come to the wrong conclusions.

For instance, a company may be offering a deal or special opportunity, but certain conditions apply.

If those conditions are written with confusing industry lingo, customers may not understand the terms and make assumptions. When corrected, they may go right back to frustration and walk away from your business.

Solution: Best to be clear, use easy to understand terminology and communicate to the customer exactly what is meant, so consumers can come to an educational decision, and be more open to considering the company to meet their business needs.

Presenting customers with industry lingo is likely to result in a barrier between the business and the customer. When customers feel left out because they don't understand the content of the message in the business letter received, they are likely to not respond favorably, and instead have a feeling of division.

Solution: Use terminology that is welcoming and designed to nurture a growing relationship between the company and customer; avoid constructing barriers and focus on building a nice rapport.

Feelings of Mistrust
Jargon and industry-speak can often lead to feelings of mistrust. Current customers may feel alienated and not inclined to believe what the company says, if they aren't feeling effective communication is being shared. Potential customers are likely to feel as if the business is trying to pull the wool over their eyes if the company uses language that appears to be a cryptic language.

Solution: Avoid using double speak and terminology that sounds as if the business is hiding something. People are likely to be inclined to feel mistrust towards a company that sounds like they are trying to pull a fast one.

Historically politicians tend to use double speak and jargon, and as a result the general population doesn't believe much of what they say. Don't be a politician. Instead make a commitment to informed outreach in clear terminology, minus the jargon.

Jargon, acronyms, and industry lingo are all appropriate within the internal environment, but when communicating with customers are a big no-no.

Companies that try to impress with fancy jargon are only going to undermine the effectiveness of their business letters and alienate their customer base.