Just before Christmas I received a catalog in the mail from Dell which included products from their consumer line (laptops and desktops) as well as from their business offerings (servers, workstations, etc.). I’m sure someone in marketing thought that it would be handy to put all of these items in one place since some consumers might also be business decision makers, and vice versa. So as I flipped through the last few pages I came across this gem of a headline:
Now anyone who works in retail knows POS means Point of Sale, but for the rest of the world (and probably most of the recipients of the catalog), POS means Piece of Sh*t and of all the things I think Dell wants you to believe about their products, I find it unlikely that they want to be associated with sh*t. While the headline made me laugh, it also made me consider how often I use acronyms or other ‘insider’ terminology. Jargon can become so well integrated into our daily speech patterns that we forget whether our audience truly interprets the words we use in the way we would like them to. Regardless of your industry or your background, you have likely picked up some speech habits that are clearly understood within your normal operating environment, but may be misinterpreted outside of that sphere.
At best using jargon will result in a failure to get your point across. At worst you may end up saying the opposite of what you mean. Your best bet is to make a conscious effort to minimize the amount of industry lingo you incorporate in your verbal and written communications, and to always be aware of your audience when you use insider terms.