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Today I Left Out the Jargon

Today I presented my first live web-based workshop "Email Intelligence," a 90-minute program. It was tricky and stressful because of some technological problems I could not solve. But so far the reviews are positive–whew!

Whenever I do something new that I wish had been perfect but wasn't, I make a list of the things that went well and the things I did that were effective. One of my effective decisions was to avoid jargon. 

In the web workshops and webinars I have attended, I have heard presenters say things like this:

  • "Now I am going to open the poll."
  • "Now I will close the poll."
  • "Now I will broadcast the results."

I decided not to use those expressions because they have no meaning for workshop participants. To participants, what does it mean to open a poll? They care about voting in the poll and seeing how others voted. The same is true for closing a poll. Who cares? Why close it anyway?

The statement "Now I will broadcast the results" can be communicated as "Let's see how everyone voted." Although the webinar platform uses the phrase "broadcast results," it is not necessary to use the same term with the audience.  

I suggest using this approach with all presentations–live, taped, in-person, online, or any other way. Think about the terms the audience uses. Then use them.

Now if I can just get my screen to stay uncluttered and the chat comments to be big enough to read, I think I will enjoy leading business writing classes online. Wish me luck!

Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

4 comments on “Today I Left Out the Jargon”

  • Hello, I’m really enjoying this blog especially because I teach Business Writing 🙂 I have been searching for conforming thoughts about the use of “casual” expressions in writing formal letters which I believe would definitely improve the health of workers who spend most of their lives sitting in their cubicles like couch potatoes.

    I am currently teaching this subject among ESL speakers which I find a little bit more challenging because they cannot accept the already fossilised cliches of formal writings. When I tried anyway, the outcome is usually disasterous and they end up like writing business letters to their girlfriends or boyfriends!

    However I think I understood the more appropriate approach now after reading your suggestions. I like the part where you mentioned about “knowing your audience” which I definitely should pay more attention to since my students come from various field of studies.

  • congratulations on your first webinar!

    I’m jealous.

    You mentioned some technical glitches. Would you mind saying what service you used, and if you would use them again?


    M4M Joanne

  • Hi, Joanne. We use Adobe Acrobat Meeting Pro. The software is fine. Regarding the technical problem, something happened that had never occured in all our trial runs. But now we know how to handle it!

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