The Transformative Removal of Jargon for Impactful Writing

As someone with a bachelors degree in English, I pay attention to words. When I worked as an administrative specialist in an IT department, I was careful about using terminology correctly–even if I only half-understood the technology behind it.

So when I see jargon overrunning both the technology and non-profit fields, it annoys me. Of course there is a need for new words and phrases, especially in the technology fields; but where a perfectly good word or expression exists, it’s not necessary to reinvent (or rename) the wheel.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently published an article by Elizabeth Ortiz entitled “How Jargon Can Damage Nonprofit Work” that targets three buzzwords run amok–impactful, transformative, and innovative.

As the Ortiz points out, “impactful” isn’t even a word. Never mind. Impact is a word, but it’s overused, too. Impact makes me think of an outfielder running into the brick wall at Wrigley Field. Occasionally something is so spectacular that it deserves to be called impact in the metaphorical sense. Most of the time “effect” is enough–probably better. It’s not impactful; it doesn’t even have impact. It’s effective and has effect. That’s plenty.

Transformative and innovative are real words and they have real meanings. But like impact, they are used in situations that don’t quite measure up. Not all changes are transformative. You may have done something you’ve never done before, but it’s not innovative unless nobody else has done it, either.

Now I’ll add my own. First there’s “on a daily basis…” It means daily. Unless you’re being paid by the word, write or say “daily.” Same goes for weekly, monthly, yearly, whatever. Save ink. Save pixels. Save your voice.

Second there’s “entrepreneur.” Like innovative and transformative, it’s a real word with meaning, but unless you’re building something, well, innovative or transformative in your garage that’s going to make you a billionaire, you’re not an entrepreneur. You’re self-employed, or maybe you’re a small business owner. That’s in the developed world. If you’re an illiterate woman in Bangladesh who’s never earned a rupee in her life, and you start a small business out of your home, you’re entitled to be called an entrepreneur.

What other jargon have you noticed being misused or overused? Add your own thought in the Comments.

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