Stop the Confusion! Why You Should Avoid Technical Jargon in your Website Copy

Stop the Confusion! Why You Should Avoid Technical Jargon in your Website Copy

Written by Karen Carps

May 16, 2024

Did you know that a muted trombone makes the sound of the adults in Peanuts cartoons? I bet you could hear the sound in your head as soon as you read that. In fact, I’ve heard that sound in my head during boring meetings. Someone drones along in a monotone voice, and the sound of Charlie Brown’s teacher fills my ears. As a former teacher, I worked ridiculously hard to keep my students’ attention and NOT remind them of that sound. Now that I’ve changed careers, I have the same desire for my online “class”. That’s why I work really hard to teach concepts in my blog without overusing technical jargon.

Let’s say that you need to understand why your car suddenly makes *that* noise. Is it something you can easily fix yourself, or do you need to get it to a mechanic? Like any other person who does NOT identify as an automotive professional, you take to the web. After a little research, you find a few articles that may help. Whew!

Some of those articles, however, are easier to understand than others. Why? Because you aren’t a mechanic and don’t understand their language.

Reasons to Reduce Technical Jargon

It Makes You Less Approachable

Have you ever watched TV and thought that whoever was being interviewed was just trying to sound smart? They use so many complicated terms to make a simple point that it just becomes word salad. By the end of the interview, you have no idea what you were even supposed to learn!

In your website content, you want your audience to see you as a trusted source and identify themselves in your content. You may think that using lots of complicated terms will make you look smarter and impress people. It doesn’t. A recent survey by Enreach showed that 90% of respondents believed that people use business and technical jargon to cover up that they actually have no idea what they’re talking about!

90% of online readers believe people use technical jargon to cover up that they don’t know what they’re talking about.

When I write content, I want people to trust it! The last thing I want is for readers to think I’m trying to cover up the fact that I’m actually clueless.

Technical Jargon Affects Accessibility

Accessibility refers to how well your site responds to everyone. We often associate accessibility with making sure those with visual difficulties can consume your content, or even those with processing issues like dyslexia.

Overusing technical jargon presents its own set of issues:

“…some disabilities can also make it difficult to understand specialized words, and if a visitor doesn’t speak the native language of your website, they may be unfamiliar with jargon or figurative language.”

It Increases Bounce Rate

Your bounce rate refers to the percentage of visitors who visit one page on your site and then “bounce” or leave your site immediately without engaging further. They don’t click anything or visit any other pages. They just bounce. A higher bounce rate means more people leave your site after looking at one page.

bounce rate - Tigger bouncing in front of Pooh
What I picture when discussing Bounce Rate…

Most users scan website content for key points of interest. Since using too many technical terms makes your content less scannable, people will look elsewhere for something easier to understand.

In other words, they bounce!

How to Handle Technical Jargon in Site Content

You can’t completely avoid using technical jargon on your website. How seriously will readers take you if you say “thingamajig” and “whatchamacallit”? You want to show you know your stuff without alienating your audience. You just have to strike the right balance.

Ensure Your Technical Jargon Is Absolutely Necessary

When you write, ask yourself if the technical term you’re about to use is really necessary. Does the content get a boost from including it? Will the topic appear clearer to the reader?

If you’re including it just to make yourself sound smarter or prove you know what you’re talking about, stop. You probably don’t need it.

Use Simple Language

When you must use industry terms, never assume your audience understands it. Instead, use simple terms to explain what you mean to reduce confusion. In an earlier paragraph, I used easy-to-understand terms (and even a gif) to make sure you understood the concept of bounce rate.

Readers engage with content they understand. Make sure you don’t talk over their heads.

Define Acronyms

During my teaching days, I once sat in a faculty meeting where a county bigwig came to speak. The PE teacher and I started a list of all the educational acronyms the speaker used and put checks next to those she repeated. By the end, we had filled a whole page with letter combinations. We didn’t understand all of them, and we were in the same profession!

The lesson? First, the music teacher and the PE teacher should probably not be allowed to sit together. Second, you can’t assume everyone understands what acronyms stand for, even if they seem obvious to you.

You can’t always avoid using industry terms and abbreviations. When you do, provide an explanation of what they mean. For example, I often talk about SEO. The first time I mention this term in a post, I spell out what it means in parentheses (Search Engine Optimization). Additionally, I often give a simple definition by saying that SEO means simple things you can do on your website to help it rank higher in Google and other search engines. When I reference the term again, my reader now has context to apply.

Which Would You Choose?

Now, back to your car making *that* noise. You’ve realized that it’s probably your starter. You come across a “how to” that helps you troubleshoot the problem. Sadly, you have no idea what the writer is talking about. Here’s your reaction:

What am I looking at? from Schitts Creek

The next article you find contains far less gibberish. It explains step-by-step how to diagnose the problem without using the names of engine parts you’ve never heard of. When it does use foreign terms, it makes sure you understand what they mean Much better reaction:

"I totally get that" from Schitt's Creek

What do you do? Yeah, take the car to the mechanic and let someone else deal with it. I would, too.

If you’d like help knowing what makes an amazing website that will crush your goals, I have a free website blueprint course that lays it all out in 5 lessons, straight to your inbox…. with very little technical jargon!

So make your content easy to understand, and keep swimming along!

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