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Being mindful of jargon

Should I avoid jargon in my academic text?

Jargon refers to specialist vocabulary that is difficult to understand for people outside a certain profession or group. Because academic papers are written for, and read by, researchers that are specialists in their field, technical vocabulary is unavoidable and often necessary. But you should aim to restrict the use of jargon in your text to where it is necessary. The following tips should help with this.

  1. Know your audience

What constitutes jargon can vary from person to person. A layman or practitioner may find a technical term difficult to understand, while another researcher in your field would not. When writing your paper, remind yourself of your readership. If your readers are likely to be unfamiliar with specific concepts and theories, restrict the use of jargon (or define it).

  1. Reflect on why you are using jargon

Many researchers think that using plain language shows a lack of expertise, but this is a myth. Don’t fall for the idea that jargon helps establish your authority. If it is misused or overused, the opposite will happen. Writing papers is about conveying complex information in an effective way, not in the most complicated way possible. On the other hand, good reasons for including jargon are when the technical term can’t be substituted for another, or is more precise than any alternative.

  1. Read widely

Before anything else, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the jargon that is used in your field. The best way to do this is to read a lot of papers by other researchers, targeted at various audiences. When you do this, pay close attention to the words they use. Notice the presence (or absence) of technical vocabulary. This will give you an idea of what jargon to use or avoid in your own texts.