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Jargon: Handle with Care

When I reviewed business Web sites for the Webby Awards earlier this year,one of the most common and annoying ... I ran across was jargon -insider language that got in the way of ... w

When I reviewed business Web sites for the Webby Awards earlier this year,
one of the most common and annoying obstacles I ran across was jargon -
insider language that got in the way of understanding what the business
behind the site actually did for its clients. The same barrier detracts
from the effectiveness of many press releases.

Troublesome jargon comes in at least three varieties: buzzwords, or trendy
phrases used by people who consider themselves on the cutting edge of their
field; acronyms, the dizzying alphabet soup of obscure abbreviations; and
technical or specialized phraseology that just isn't much known outside of
a particular niche.

"GCKL's Enterprise-level Viral Marketing Solutions Offer Leading Value-Add
for the P2P Revolution": that's a fictional headline containing no less
than seven buzzwords. Most journalists hate buzzwords, and you should
therefore avoid them, just as you should try not to complete the previous
thought in this sentence with "like the plague." If you think my made-up
headline makes perfect sense, then please take my word for it that the
number of people who truly understand such messages is extremely small.
Usually when you attempt to translate buzzwords, all that comes from the
effort is mush.

Acronyms such as "CRM," "CSS," "CSP" and "CTR" are a bit trickier to
provide advice about, because they are much likelier than buzzwords to
become elements in searches of the Internet at large or press release
databases. In other words, potential clients and media people might
actually search for "CRM for small business" or "CSS tutorials," so that
you want those phrases to appear in your release if that's what you do.

Even so, you need to remember that many media people and potential clients
may not have a mental definition for such acronyms. For instance,
publishing insiders can email each other about "POD initiatives," but in a
press release "POD" should not only be clearly explained as "publishing on
demand" but that term given a brief gloss as well. By using both the
acronym and the written-out words that the letters stand for, as well as
further definitions when a phrase is relatively new or specialized, you
communicate clearly and set the stage for your news to be found through
search engines.

Now what about specialized vocabulary - "hematoma," "habeas corpus,"
"chakra" and "candlestick charts"? Such phrases have precise and
established meanings in certain fields, but people who don't use the terms
every day may have a hazy comprehension of them. Thus, you should handle
them as I recommended for acronyms. Provide a brief, unobtrusive
definition in close proximity to their first use in a release.

When you do this subtly, tucking an explanation into your release, neither
the in-group nor the outsiders take offense. For instance, within Eastern
medicine "qi" is a standard term. You could define it discreetly as in
this sentence: "Acupuncture restores balance and regulates the flow of qiFree Reprint Articles,
the basic life force." The last four words prevent both confusion and

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Marcia Yudkin is the author of the classic PR guide,
Six Steps to Free Publicity, and 10 other books. You can learn more about
her new special report, Powerful, Painless Online Publicity, at

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