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The Wall: Why the use of jargon must be discouraged

(This is the first of an opinion series, where I wax philosophical on a range of topics that are a nuisance to adult life.)

Via Dilbert

When referring to domain-specific Jargon, what comes to mind for you?

Do you cringe when hearing co-workers use terms that do not sound like anything an actual person would say in a conversation?

If your answer was object horror and disgust, then congratulations, you are among good company!

Knowing myself, I definitely cringe and become extremely angry upon hearing wordy phrases that have no business being used in any other situation to describe an action (operationalize, scaffolding, competencies, scalability, etc.).

Of course, jargon on some level needs to exist to give meaning to words that are specific to a domain or profession to ascribe ideas and practices to said domain or profession.

Jargon helps to legitimize and validate an industry, because when used appropriately, jargon can help to inform for “best practices” (another corporate buzzword, to be touched on another time) on how to do a specific task.

Additionally, jargon helps industry insiders to know when you are referring to a specific thing that relates to what others do, which when used correctly can help to give you credibility within your area of expertise.

My gripe here is that said jargon is finding its way into published, public-facing materials such as articles about their respective domains that are finding its way to the masses.

I find that much of this kind of content is being written by people who do not write for other people outside of their industry.

So why is that sticking in my craw particularly?

Well for example, I am learning the program language R for Data Analysis purposes and have been doing so for the last 3 months.

Whenever I look at articles about Data Analysis/Data Science, even from Medium’s own Towards Data Science — I find that I’m inundated with technical phrasing so far beyond my own reasoning that it feels overwhelming to study the words themselves for their proper context, let alone apply the principles of what the words mean in relation to what it is that I want to do.

That’s why I want more people to take in the importance of jargon and by extension the importance of words, and what it represents for those looking to start anew in their careers; especially in this time of coronavirus — it comes across as being a brick freaking wall.

Photo by Dave Webb on Unsplash

While learning a domain’s jargon comes with the territory of learning a new skill or profession; it always had the consequence of proving to be a barrier to entry for those looking to make a change.

Now even more so, as more publications hide their content behind paywalls. This only stands for more of the same kind of division that drives income inequality, an explicit barrier to entry. Therefore, it would make sense that the content found should be easier to read and understand for clarity’s sake.

Considering that the technology sector is looking to disrupt many multi-billions dollar industries within the next 10 years, we should probably get a jump on helping people along who want to start a career within tech. That starts by making educational resources clearer and more affordable.

As it stands right now, you really have to do the research; especially when the domain is a new, emerging field like the Data Analysis example I espoused earlier; where it feels like so many lofty umbrella terms are used to describe otherwise not-so-difficult to grasp ideas.

Ideas such as what machine learning even is, or what models are and how they are used to help businesses make decisions, the difference between Data Science and Data Analysis, etc…

I have had the good fortune of being taught some of these by an industry professional; but for others who are not so lucky, the very first thing I suggest is learning how to Google.

Leveraging LinkedIn is also a great way to gain insight into a field that you want to break into, as it’s served me very well; follow key insiders in your aspiring profession and try to contextualize what they are saying.

The ways in which we learn also has a way in affecting how we consume information to understand, in this case, jargony, technical corporate speak.

Photo by Krzysztof Kotkowicz on Unsplash

It will not help for you to learn your domain’s jargon by memorizing the language to internalize their meaning or you will just end up burning yourself out. Or worse yet, turn you into a robot.

Keep this in mind the next time you feel like you need to see the view from 30,000ft and take a deep dive into starting a new career.

You see that kind of dastardly speak is something that I should touch on for next time, as I despise it so, so much.

Let me know how you feel about jargon’s place in our professional lives and thank you for reading.

Equanimity is something I seek to achieve through writing about things that make me think too much and too often, hopefully you are entertained.