Ditching Jargon in the Workplace: How Can Jargon Affect Communication

Office Jargon – terms like “low-hanging fruit,” “put a pin in it” or “run it up the flag pole” have become a staple in professional settings. There are many reasons why people use jargon. Some people use it out of habit, some to speed up conversations, some to fit in, and others to sound more intelligent or professional. 

A recent study by Tombola shows one in five employees fear missing a promotion because they don’t know the corporate jargon. Let’s explore why ditching the jargon matters and how it can benefit your workplace. 

What is Office Jargon?  

Office jargon is specialised phrases or terminology used to describe a business topic or idea. Jargon is often integrated to shorten or simplify long phrases or ideas; a little like office slang.

Professional Language VS Jargon

It’s important to note that not all jargon is alike, and some are easier to replace than others. 

Many people argue that technical language can become jargon if not properly explained. For instance, acronyms like SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or KPI (Key Performance Indicator) are seen as jargon when not clarified or when acronyms are used instead of the complete terminology. It’s recommended that departments use the full terminology or provide a definition for these acronyms when they are first mentioned to ensure comprehension. 

When communicating with individuals outside of your field, this approach seems reasonable. However, when interacting with those in your industry, it is acceptable to use clear industry terminology.

As long as everyone understands professional language, it can speed up discussions and facilitate efficient communication. For instance, most marketers should understand what SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is since it’s a relevant industry acronym. Using this rather than the full term would make a marketing meeting discussion about SEO faster for a group of marketers.

Jargon Causes Misunderstandings and Confusion

The most prominent issue with jargon is that it causes disengagement, misunderstandings, and alienation among team members. Terminology is thrown around offices and most newcomers are simply expected to know the lingo. Two-thirds of those in the workplace globally claim they had to work out the workplace jargon on their own. 

In contrast, plain language improves efficiency and reduces errors. Clear communication ensures everyone understands their tasks and responsibilities, leading to better performance and collaboration. 

Plain language also helps to create an inclusive work atmosphere where everybody feels comfortable and understood. For example, replacing the phrase “target low-hanging fruit” with “target easy tasks” makes the desired task much clearer! 

Professionals who have switched to plain language often report feeling more driven, motivated, and connected to the team. This is why UK exhibition stand design and build contractor, Quadrant2Design, chooses not to use any work jargon. 

Marking Manager James Vicefield says: “We work in an industry where there is already enough technical terminology. We keep our language plain and effective. Clients are often new to exhibiting and new team members may not have worked in the events sector. Why make things complicated.”

Plain Language is for Everyone

So what is it that people like about jargon? According to studies, the use of jargon in the workplace stems from insecurity. People use fluffy, complex language to appear more intelligent or dominant. A Communication and Accommodation Theory by social psychologist Howard Giles supports this.

The theory discusses how individuals modify communication and language to achieve a certain outcome. To be well-liked, we mimic the tone, language, and body language of others. To display dominance, we alter our tone, language, or body language. Nevertheless, this behaviour can lead to language alienation.

Instead, workplaces should aim to ditch the jargon and speak in plain terms, to ensure that everybody feels included. You might have heard the phrase “Anyone can make a simple topic complicated, but only an expert can make a complicated phrase simple.” Complex words do not always correspond with intelligence. It takes skill to make a complex topic digestible! 

Tips and Tricks for Avoiding Jargon 

  1. Identify and replace jargon 

Start by recognising common jargon phrases and finding simple alternatives. For Example, instead of saying “Let’s touch base,” say “Let’s meet.” Or, instead of saying “synergy,” say “working together effectively!” 

  1. Encourage questions and clarifications 

Create an open environment where team members feel comfortable asking for explanations when they don’t understand something. Especially if you are in a niche industry or if you take on inexperienced staff members.

  1. Implement a jargon-free policy 

Consider establishing a policy that encourages the use of plain language in all communications. This could include making a glossary for newcomers and existing employees to refer to! 


In conclusion, the impact of office jargon on workplace communication is significant. While some specific terms may be essential for industry professionals, an overreliance on jargon can lead to misunderstandings, alienation, and decreased productivity.Embracing plain language and encouraging open communication can create a more inclusive and efficient work environment. By recognising and replacing jargon, promoting a culture of questions and explanations, and implementing jargon-free policies, organisations can foster better understanding and collaboration among team members. Clear, straightforward communication benefits everyone involved, contributing to a more connected, motivated, and successful workplace.