Sunday, July 24, 2011

Another reason to banish jargon from your writing

The best reason is that it makes your writing ponderous (in the worst cases, indecipherable). Now this study conducted by NYU and a Swiss University finds that jargon also makes your audience think you're lying. Not good.

Here's the abstract:

In four experiments, the impact of concreteness of language on judgments of truth was examined. In Experiments 1 and 2, it was found that statements of the very same content were judged as more probably true when they were written in concrete language than when they were written in abstract language. Findings of Experiment 2 also showed that this linguistic concreteness effect on judgments of truth could most likely be attributed to greater perceived vividness of concrete compared to abstract statements. Two further experiments demonstrated an additional fit effect: The truth advantage of concrete statements occurred especially when participants were primed with a concrete (vs. abstract) mind-set (Experiment 3) or when the statements were presented in a spatially proximal (vs. distant) location (Experiment 4). Implications for communication strategies are discussed.Apparently the use of business jargon is more likely to make people think you're lying. According to BNet, "the study is out of New York University and a Swiss university and shows that when you want to seem believable and trustworthy, concrete language is the way to go."

The website has applied the study to common business jargon and come up with this handy-dandy conversion table to help boost your credibility:

Business-speak             What people who aren't liars say

"Reach out"                    "Talk to/phone/e-mail/send carrier pigeon to"

"Deep dive"                    "Instead of doing our usual half-assed job, we took the time
                                           to investigate properly"

"Deliverables"                 "Mundane tasks I am responsible for completing"

"Ballpark"                       "I have no idea. But here's a guess"

"Verbiage"                      "Words"

"Let's take this offline"     "Let's talk about this after the meeting, so we don't
                                              embarrass ourselves in front of the boss/waste everyone else's time"

Hat tip to the Careerist at


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