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Jargon & Gobbledygook: When Is Technical Website Copy Too Much?

Reading Time: 3 minutes
electrical pole with wires and cables all over the place

We have a great affection for Mammalia within the Felis catus species.

In other words, we love cats. There’s only one way to define the sentence above: gobbledygook. This term is so much more than a fun word to say—it’s something to avoid in your website copy.

To Jargon or Not To Jargon?

Us Word Nerds get the amazing opportunity to work with many businesses and professionals in a wide range of industries. Many of these professionals are experts in their field. And some of the businesses we work with are start-ups bringing something completely new into the world.

Expertise and innovation often bring a bit of confusion when it comes to writing website copy. Some of the questions we receive include:

  • Shouldn’t I use industry-specific terminology to prove my expertise in my field?
  • If I write too simply, will my website visitors think I’m incompetent or less knowledgeable than my competitors?
  • But my audience includes CEOs and executives—shouldn’t I use industry language to attract them?

The short answer: Industry terminology shouldn’t take over your copy. Why? First of all, the average American adult has somewhere between a 7th and 8th-grade reading level. This makes highly technical copy difficult to understand for many.

Secondly, your website visitors are only spending mere seconds on your website before deciding to dive deeper or run away. Potential customers don’t want to spend those seconds reading gobbledygook—they want to spend it learning more about you.

Don’t Tell. Show Instead…

Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Even those sitting in the C-suite don’t have time to sift through three hundred words of jargon. Nor do they want to.

To start simplifying your copy, learn how to show what you know. For example, instead of using jargon-filled copy to explain what you do, add in a case study that showcases real results. Instead of listing the technical features of your service, show the benefits or how a customer’s life might change after working with you.

…And Drop Your Ego

Can we be real for a second? Your website copy isn’t about you. Your website’s goal is to deliver value to your audience, whether that’s by answering a question or fulfilling a need. Stop making it about yourself and what you know. Instead, put the focus back on those who matter most, your potential customers.

How to Simplify Your Copy: 5 Mistakes to Avoid

Simplifying your copy isn’t difficult. It simply takes placing yourself in your customer’s shoes and perhaps reaching out to a friend and asking them to read your copy to provide feedback. As you rework your content, be sure to avoid:

  1. Tautologies: The term “tautology” means to say the same thing twice using different words. For example, “it is what it is” and “first and foremost.” These phrases don’t do anything but clog up your copy with unnecessary words. And clogged up copy is hard to understand.
  2. Not saying what you mean: Have you ever heard, “lots of moving parts” or “growth hacking”? What do these terms even mean? Instead of using terms that take critical thinking to understand, simplify your language and get to the point.
  3. Filler and fluff: Words such as “really” and “very” are nothing more than fluff that can creep up into our copy. Before you publish, go through your content and remove them.
  4. Not writing like you talk: Your content should read like a conversation with a friend who just so happens to be your target audience. It shouldn’t sound like a dissertation. Write like you talk, using real words you use in the wild. Better yet, use words your target audience likes to use.
  5. Too much jargon: You knew it was coming, right? Industry-specific language is fine in small doses. After all, it’s impossible to avoid jargon completely. Simply use what’s necessary.

Hot tip: Use a tool such as Hemingway to check the reading level of your website copy. If it’s over 8th grade, makes some changes.

Having Trouble Simplifying Your Website Copy?

Simplifying your copy is sometimes tough. After all, you know what you’re talking about and want nothing more than to share your knowledge with the world. Yet, for the sake of your audience, it’s time to get back to the basics. We can help. Send the Word Nerds a message.

Erin Larson