Jargon and Buzzwords

Jargon is the specialized language of a particular field, trade, social or cultural group, occupation, or profession—information technology, the military, government, psychology, economics, mathematics, biology, medicine, and so on. When you are writing a paper in a particular field, you can use these specialized terms that are accepted and understood in that field. Buzzwords are terms that have spread beyond their original field, and people outside the occupation often use the words imprecisely or pretentiously, for example: downsize, cutting edge, holistic, benchmarking, paradigm, synergy, tipping point, off‐shoring, next generation.

Negative connotations of jargon

The term jargon has other negative connotations. Jargon can seem like gibberish to most people. When a special term arises because it describes or categorizes something in a helpful way, it is acceptable. But when jargon becomes a way of making something sound more scientific, technical, or complex than it really is, it should be avoided. Jargon is sometimes merely doublespeak, and it is also often responsible for wordy, heavy‐handed sentences.

Avoiding jargon and buzzwords

In your writing, avoid using specialized terms from a particular field unless you are writing in or about that field. For example, you can talk about computers interfacing more appropriately than about people interfacing. Risk‐averse investments is a tolerable phrase; risk‐averse children should be changed to children who are afraid to take risks. Specialized terms can have distinct meanings within a field; if you borrow them to describe other phenomena, you may be making a mistake. At the very least, you may confuse the reader.