How to avoid confusing your readers with Jargon

Today’s letter in the A-Z Challenge J. 

J= Jargon


Last April I did a tiny post about the definition of Jargon. Man oh man, I didn’t realize how much there was to learn about this word. Thanks to all the great writers out there, I’ve learned a lot over the past year.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned is how confused a reader can become when this is overdone.

Recently, I felt this confusion and frustration first hand. Reading a book by a UK author became more of a chore than enjoyment. 

Why? Because the book was riddled with words I didn’t understand. This required me to stop and look up the definition so that I could get the gist of what was happening. Had the author reduced some of the jargon or at least added an explanation, I might have stuck with the book. 

What I learned about writing with or without using jargon.

  • The use of jargon can confuse the reader. Use sparingly. 
  • Avoid using pretentious, showy, or fake unintelligible words that read like Gobbledygook.
  • Slang is typical of a specific area or generation and can change.
  • Don’t overdo “Cant” words such as humbug, twaddle, hogwash, or rubbish. 
    • Cant words that are supposed to sound like serious statements about important issues (such as religion or morality) but that are not honest or sincere.
  • Careful using secret languages known as Argot.
    • Argot  is a secret language used by twins, criminals, or a dialect such as Patois.
  • Only use Tech Speak when writing a tech manual.
  • Unless you are writing about computers avoid Computerese.
    • It’s Tech Speak of computer geeks.
  • Buzzword words come and go. Make sure it’s important.
  • Don’t fill your story with abbreviations. It will look like Alphabet Soup and the reader won’t understand most of it.
    • Alphabet Soup term used figuratively to describe a confusing group of letters (such as abbreviations) used to refer to various organizations, items, etc.
  • Avoid Inflated, euphemistic, official-sounding language of government—looks like alphabet soup and is known as Bureaucratese.
  • Even if writing a military thriller, go easy with Pentagonese.
    • Not everyone understands military words and phrases.
  • Avoid the use of words that go to absurd lengths to avoid offending various classes of people. PC.
    • Nope, not a computer, PC stands for Politically Correct.


Look for better alternatives that can add meaning and persuasive power to your writing. Using words that your reader can understand will create more of an impact than filling a scene with jargon.

What do you think about the use of Jargon?

Should it be avoided completely? 

Talk to me, the lights on and comments are now open.

You can find me on Twitter @jeancogdell, Facebook at jean.cogdelland, stop by and say hey! Please remember to click and share this post with your Twitter peeps and Facebook fans.

Read below what other writers have to say on this subject.
Reducing Jargon
Jargon by Jennifer Yirinec
Jargon and Slang
How to Prune Jargon From Your Popular Writing by Theresa MacPhail
The Jargon File 


15 thoughts on “How to avoid confusing your readers with Jargon

  1. Jargon bothers me as well, I notice it a lot in spy thrillers and techno thrillers. I’m reading a UK mystery right now that is giving me some problems. Funny you should mention that in your post. You didn’t name the genre and I wouldn’t dare name the author. In fact, I absolutely love the plot line and the characters and I don’t believe I can blame “jargon” for my problem. The author is writing to the author’s primary audience. I didn’t want to use a he or she pronoun there. In the UK, Scottland and other counties in Europe I’ve learned that people speak differently than they do in the US. Police officers have different titles and ranks and that’s just a fraction of the the many language differences. Most of the time, the setting, action and current plot line allows me to fill in the blanks on my own, but it does jar me out of the story quite a bit and I wish it didn’t. There’s nothing i can do about a language barrier though. I spent time making sure I removed most south Louisiana jargon from my NIP during my last round of revisons, leaving just enough for cultural flair. It’s the intentional overuse of jargon that chaps my behind. Great post, again!
    Melissa Sugar

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Too funny! My book was a police, murder mystery too. The language barrier didn’t bother me as much as the acronyms for the police procedural stuff combined with the country of origin. Exhausting.


  2. Another peril of using jargon is dating your work. Hopefully, your book will be around for awhile. Of course anything on the web is subject to being there forever. Today’s jargon will be tomorrow’s anachronism.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post. Great points. I follow many blogs and read many books. The need of some writers to use words that send us to our nearest dictionary amazes me. These writers don’t realize how using a familiar word can keep us focused on the read. Agree with every you said tin this post. I wish more people would read this.

    Liked by 1 person

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