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Jargon vs Upgoer 5

Jargon is fine, but use it sparingly. Err on the side of simplicity.

Megan Preston Meyer
Megan Preston Meyer

Randall Munroe, creator of xkcd, wrote the book* on using simple language to explain complex ideas. In it, he uses only the 1000 most common English words to explain things like the Saturn V rocket ship – which he calls ‘Up Goer 5’ because Saturn, rocket, and ship don’t make the cut.

🚀 Up Goer 5 language makes your message accessible to everyone. 🚀

Contrast that with jargon.

Don’t get me wrong – I love jargon. It can be colorful and concrete and, when your audience shares your context, extremely efficient.

But it can also be annoying if you use it every other sentence because you think it adds business cred…and if your audience doesn’t share your context, it makes your message hard to understand.

As William Zinsser writes in ‘On Writing Well’ (which is a pretty Up Goer 5 title), a simple style does not reflect a simple mind.

In fact, it shows the opposite –that you’ve already put in the effort to make the message clear so that your reader doesn’t have to work so hard.

Moral of the story: Jargon is okay, but use it sparingly. Err on the side of simplicity.

* Literally: It's called Thing Explainer, and I like it so much that this link isn't even an affiliate link.

Communication Tips