TBH IDC about your KPIs, what was FIFO or when EOP is. As a ‘normal person’ to me POS means Piece Of Shit, not Point Of Sale. But I run a business. Not knowing jargon is not a sign that I’m a bad entrepreneur. It is however a sign that entrepreneurship is bad at inclusion. 

“But!” I hear you cry… “jargon makes my life easier! I love saying making hay instead of being productive,” (yes the double meaning is intentional). Let me tell you why it does not make life easier. Not for the old you before you learnt it all, and not for the sparkly fresh talent who could bring a whole lot to your startup. 

It’s so easy to turn jargon into a weird form of bullying. It’s elitism in incognito mode. I know this fancy word or abbreviation therefore I art cleverer than thou. Not true. 

Advertisement HUCKLETREE

Business school BS

Not everyone goes to business school to learn cool terms like bleeding edge, low-hanging fruit, and paradigm-shifting, but everyone has a point of view and skillset that makes them valuable. Just because you don’t know what a unicorn is doesn’t mean you can’t help to create one.

This kind of elitism does not foster meaningful relationships within the workplace. It doesn’t aid communication. It means that those starting out don’t just have to learn the job, but a whole bunch of time wasting, confusing, endlessly evolving and different-within-every-business jargon. 

The crazy thing is that we know jargon is bad. I come from an advertising background. Specifically I’m trained as a copywriter. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen and written brand tone of voice documents with snippets that say things like ‘we speak to the customer like we’d speak with friends over coffee’ or ‘we don’t use jargon or complicated terms’. It works because nobody wants to be made to feel stupid, and understanding what someone is saying to you makes the whole process of buying into something a million times easier.

Don’t we want the same thing from the people helping to build our business? How much budget do we put into culture or diversity and inclusion? Sometimes learning to type out social media instead of SoMe has a lot more impact than free pizza on Fridays. 

“Sometimes I can’t even read a job description without having to Google certain terms.

But how can this impact diversity? It’s really quite simple. As startups we’re very aware of the type of person that is generally accepted. 

Our job now is to bring different people in. People with different points of view have different solutions to problems, and they could be a lot better if we’d just stop shutting them down by making them feel unwelcome with weird words. I mean, sometimes I can’t even read a job description without having to Google certain terms. One quick look at LinkedIn tells me that collaboration is a thing that we “foster”, and that as an entry-level employee I should be “enticed” by “phantom shares”. That sounds scary and not at all enticing. We have to nurture talent from the point at which they enter the startup world. If not they’ll just disappear, and that’s not good for anyone.

“Talking like an ordinary person is inclusive of ordinary, extraordinary and everything in between people, and that’s a pretty solid thing to be.”

We need to make this an inclusive world, and that means using normal language to make everyday life easier for people who didn’t go to business school (maybe they went to a different kickass school that doesn’t talk about ROI but loads about branding, for example), and also those who don’t have the resources to study for years and years but still have plenty to give. It takes extra pressure off of those with English as a second language, or whichever language you work in.

Talking like an ordinary person is inclusive of ordinary, extraordinary and everything in between people, and that’s a pretty solid thing to be. 

Where to start

So how can you go about making it better? There are some easy fixes: 

  • Stop with the whole ‘no caps or emojis in emails’ thing. People have personalities and that is a good thing. Everyone says people buy people, but then don’t let us be human. The incredible Kei Maye makes a really great point in this post focused on the creative industries, and lots of other great points in her other posts. Professional is good, robot is not. 
  • Stop using acronyms. EOP and end of play are the same number of syllables, and if after all these arguments you still can’t be arsed to type six more letters then YES you are a bad person. 
  • Chat with new people in your business. Chat with people with different professions. Chat with young people and actually listen. Don’t get absorbed in your bubble and forget that referring to a presentation as a deck isn’t normal.

“When everyone starts talking like solutioning actually means something, stick to your guns.”

  • Don’t join in. When everyone starts talking like solutioning actually means something, stick to your guns. You go ahead and talk about fixing a problem, or at least finding solutions, in the knowledge that everyone in the room will know what you are talking about, whereas Solutioning Simon is making some people real uncomfortable.
  • Think about your audience. We will never be able to get rid of complicated concepts, but the least we can do is speak about them in an uncomplicated manner. Be aware of who is in the room/email chain and make sure they feel involved. If that means explaining the term in a non-condescending way then you know what you gotta do. 
  • If you don’t understand something, ask. You might feel stupid but I bet the person who can explain to you what a BS is in about two words feels stupider for using a stupid abbreviation in the first place. Hint: the B doesn’t stand for bull, but it might as well. 

Chloe Cordon is founder and creative director at FLIRT, a creative advertising agency in Barcelona. 

16
Join the conversation

avatar
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Social Justice Warrior
Social Justice Warrior

2020 definition of “acronym”: tactic used by bad people to shut down people and make them feel unwelcome.

Pathetic. The cancel culture is strong with this one.

Martin Mil
Martin Mil

Wow, your life seems to be a living hell. I hope you will overcome all these awful things that makes you such a victim of corporate bullying. Seriously though, how about being curious and googling the acronym or going with a good old human interaction and ask the person what the meaning of their sentence is? Stop the victimhood mentality.

Julia
Julia

👏 (wait are emojis allowed?).

Cedrick
Cedrick

You just got owned Chloe. You sound like a true millennial who pulls out the victim card at every opportunity because you know ‘diversity’ is so trending right now and you want to improve your metrics. Jargon is fine depending on your audience but you talk in absolutes, as if there are no grey areas.

C W M
C W M

Never gonna hire a woketivist agency, that’s for sure. Keep your cancel culture in your Twitter alt account and grow up.

Can’t stand the knockers
Can’t stand the knockers

Not a very useful or inclusive reply CWM. So you don’t agree with the article. Instead of saying why and providing a counter argument you slam the author. That my firmed is a low dog act but speaks more about your lack of skills intelligence and open mindedness
Perhaps you are the one who should grow up? PS. No answer required

Brendan Cox
Brendan Cox

It isn’t just the business world, I’ve worked in the health care sector for over 25 years and have seen countless Models of Care come and go. Not one of those MOC’s fundamentally change the way I have done my job, all that changed was the Trade Marked marketable jargon. And yes, Health Network Administrators use that as well as business jargon to gaslight their employees. And yes, most definitely it is a form of elitism.

Moray Bowater
Moray Bowater

Jargon shmargon. What? I think there’s a place for acronyms/jargon when your audience is expert and the acronym communicates a complicated idea or long word succinctly. But when a speaker/writer/presenter is not absolutely sure the whole audience is expert or familiar with the acronyms/jargon he/she uses but persist in doing so, that’s at best inconsiderate and at worst suggests deliberate exclusion or pretentiousness. I don’t recall being particularly upset when someone has explained something simply which might have been referred to with an acronym or jargon shorthand. I certainly think better of those claiming expertise if they can communicate their… Read more »

Dave
Dave

Great article. Would you mind if I swiped parts of it for a Not for Profit I work with? The professional language and acronyms are killing new peoples enthusiasm and reinforce the old “elite”
Cheets

Rich B
Rich B

I agree to a certain extent. If we deliberately choose to use language to exclude people, that’s a problem. But if we use jargon to speed comms AND we give people explicit and frequent permission to ask what it means, I see no problem. Mind you, I have made it a virtue to ask what some perceive as the “dumb” questions for the purposes of generating clarity. NB: The really fun thing is when the organisation uses a TLA differently than everywhere else e.g. SME in the broader Australian context means Small to Medium Enterprise, whereas in some places it… Read more »

Nico K
Nico K

Fully agree with Rich – it’s important to not make it a problem and exclude people, but equally in some technical fields (e.g. engineering) it would quite literally be impossible to have sensible conversations without initialisms and acronyms. Additionally, they also make it easier to spot certain items / topics when reading reports, versus using their full expanded versions.

Like anything, the balance lies somewhere in the middle.

Nic Eatch
Nic Eatch

Agree with most of your article Chloe bar “low hanging fruit “and “paradigm shifting” , although if used in isolation with no. “So what “attached to their use then I whole heartedly agree with you . For me as a coach, trainer, leader , explainer – as long as when you use these terms you explain exactly what you mean about these analogies, why you are using them for example . Then to me you are adding to someone’s vocabulary , their mindset and educating them . Again I agree with the sentiment of your piece , at least when… Read more »

Pamal
Pamal

I love the sentiments in this column. I am teased for using puntuation in SMS (sorry!) text messages. However, as such, I have to be picky as a friendly fan. EOP and other initialisms used in this article are not acronyms. FIFO and POS are acronyms. An acronym is a special subset of initialisms. Common mistake, but not expected of an FT publication. Still give kudos for the sentiments and more power to your elbow.

Dave
Dave

Great article and so true. Would you mind if I swiped parts of it for use with the old elite at a not for profit I work at? Their use of clever sounding terms and acronyms is so off putting to new people (like me) and your article has cleverly and succinctly summed up what I want and need to tell them. I’ll provide you full credit in what I write. Cheers

Tango
Tango

Every time I hear leaders mention “Bang for Buck” makes me cringe, wouldn’t one of them know its a completely inappropriate phrase to be using in a diverse group (which includes females)…

Alun
Alun

Very well said, Ms Cordon – it drives me mad!
And I’ll never think of a point of sale machine in the same way again …