Why jargon sends us down the wrong path


It’s a word I claim I invented a decade ago for the unique language found within the financial sector, employed right from the executive floor to the local branch.

One person’s platform is another’s place-where-the-train-arrives, is another’s spot-where-Tom-Daley-dives-from. And so forth.

We all utilise jargon as a comfort blanket, an occasionally impenetrable language comprehended solely by our particular tribe.

And yet despite knowing that the need to make ourselves understood is vital in any sphere in life, we still drive straight into that pothole. Which is why messages are mistranslated, confusion reigns and grand strategies are not converted into simple actions.

I spent an extended period of time as a consultant for a large bank which loved to talk of ‘cascading’, the means by which actions approved at a board level would pass downwards, through each layer of management, until they reached the customer.

So desperate were each suit (they always had suits) to impress those above that they would regurgitate these grotesque buzz phrases verbatim, without ever checking whether the next recipient in line understood their meaning – and how it related to them.

It was laziness, a crime committed by an un-dead parrot. They had forgotten the key value of any messaging. 

It is not enough that someone has either sat through their Powerpoint or Zoom call, or ticked the Read Receipt on the email.  They failed to head to the second stage of confirming comprehension. 

Or, the third, which is agreeing upon the action to follow. Or, the fourth, which is defining the measurable outcome (often called, in an offshoot of Banklish, a KPI).

Unsurprisingly, it required a cultural brainwashing to try and rid the bank of this affliction. How? By urging them to appreciate their audience at every single step and tailoring their message specifically to that individual or group, rather than simply dumping every piece of information upon them and hoping for the best.

Go down that route, and they run the risk that the grand plan would never reach its destination– or worse, diverted in a totally different direction. 

So when working with clients – whether in producing content or copywriting for their benefit – my foremost consideration is finding out who they want to captivate and what is the end-result they are to achieve.

That allows me to choose the language, the tone of voice and to determine what the most vital information or messaging is. And then to tell a story which is engaging rather than boring to hammer it home.

Rest assured, nowhere within that will Banklish ever be deployed.

Photo by Uday Mittal on Unsplash

Published by markwoodsonline

Britball Media, Edinburgh.

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