Jargon busting

Stop misusing jargon. Here’s how to write well with technical terms:

1. Introduce the jargon word for the first time

2. Explain it in everyday language

3. Carry on using it consistently

This reassures expert audiences that you know what you’re talking about. You need to go one step further for non-expert audiences, and help them to SEE what you mean.

Let’s take a current example of jargon: “intersectionality”

1. Introduce the word: “intersectionality”

2. Explain it in everyday language: “this means an analytic framework that attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society.”

Hmm. That’s not very everyday, is it? Too many big words.

Try again: “rather than looking for one reason – such as class or gender or race – to explain why people are poor, intersectionality suggests that all these factors – and more – get piled on top of each other and twisted round and round, and that’s what keeps people down.” (note, apart from “intersectionality” there are no big words)

3. Visualise: “intersectionality theorists might say, imagine you’re climbing a steep hill. It’s hard enough, then someone adds a heavy backpack. Other people keep putting rocks into the backpack. Each rock is a different reason why people discriminate against you: your sex, your age, your class, your ethnic background. Everyone has different rocks, but weirdly, these are special rocks that have the power to affect each other: one rock could make another rock heavier or lighter.  Intersectionality says “when someone is lagging behind, don’t just blame one rock, open up the backpack and see what’s going on inside.”


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