August 10th, 2012 .

Leave the jargon in the bottle

Max Morden

Perhaps it’s because I love wine so much that I like the jargon that goes with it.

This weekend Pat and I shared a bottle of La Vieille Ferme, a lovely white wine from France. This is how it was described on the label: “The wine shows a nose of fruit and white flowers. The mouth is on soft notes of hazelnuts, yellow fruit and vine-peaches…”

The language is a bit precious, I admit, but it works. Rather than a wine “smelling” of fruit and white flowers, it “shows a nose.” Rather than “tasting,” the “mouth is on soft notes.”

Jargon is defined as “the specialized or technical language of a trade or profession.” Most writing manuals warn writers to avoid it.

I agree, in most cases. I do a lot of business writing, and one of my biggest challenges is to resist the impulse to use jargon.

For example, I would rather go without food than use the word “monetize” (as in: “I remain skeptical about Facebook’s prospects of monetizing those customers” – Globe and Mail).

And I would rather be devoured by wild beasts than use another new business word, “disaggregate” (as in: “It’s impossible to disaggregate any positive effect …from broader economic trends” – Globe and Mail).

Why is jargon so objectionable in business writing, but not in wine writing?

Wine writers take short, familiar words, like “nose” and “mouth” and use them in different ways to seduce the reader. Business writers, on the other hand, make up brand new words that are long and hard to pronounce.

When I write I will continue to avoid jargon and try to simplify language to help the reader understand. On the other hand, I haven’t been asked to do any wine writing – yet.  In the meantime, I’m happy enough just to drink it.


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