Is your content full of jargon?
If your content is full of jargon, you are at risk of
- Creating unnecessary effort for your users and customers.
- Limiting how much they understand, and
- Disengaging them
"Jargon disrupts people’s ability to fluently process scientific information, even when definitions for the jargon terms are provided. ....... Research shows the less work audiences need to put into reading, the more they will find sources credible, and the better they will connect with the messages. " *
User testing reveals jargon in content
User testing that is specially designed for written content teaches you how to empathise with your users, from language perspective. You will learn when a word or phtase - that may seem like everyday language to you - is jargon to the people you are communicating with.
User testing of written content helps you understand your users
Let's say that you need to write some instructions for people who know less about a topic than you do. This is harder than it sounds because it is difficult to be sure how much less they know. A great example is the language of investing. It is full of words and expressions that people in that industry use frequently and easily - phrases like 'asset allocation', 'yield' and 'rebalancing' are common. It is true that some investors know this language, but some do not. We have interviewed many investors who had only no idea what these words mean - and perhaps also only a vague sense of what other investment terms like 'asset classes and 'diversification ' mean.
How we label our users is the clue here: if we call users 'investors' we can easily fall into the trap of assuming that they know just as much as people in the industry know. What if we called them 'people who invest' instead? Or even 'people who invest occasionally'. Once you know who you are writing for, it is easier to know what language you can use.
Is jargon ever OK, even for non-experts?
Yes it is. The more motivated people are to know about something or to use something, the more effort they will put into learning the language. Crises like our recent pandemic motivate some people to learn the meaning of technical and scientific words and expressions that were new to them.
What I bring to testing written content with users
Over the last two decades, I have tested - and continue to test - how people read or stopped reading about: cycling safety, exchange-traded funds, denied insurance claims, superannuation fees and charges, and many others. I have watched how people read letters, landing pages, statements and brochures.
*The Effects of Jargon on Processing Fluency, Self-Perceptions, and Scientific Engagement Hillary C. Shulman, Graham N. Dixon, Olivia M. Bullock,First Published January 29, 2020 . Journal of Language and Social Psychology. SAGE.