The of the most essential skills we need is the ability to communicate – clearly and directly.

While it seems we have come a long way from grunts and shouts, lately the nonsense quotient has been  ridiculously high. 

Jargon is specialized language, a shorthand for topics in a certain field – insider’s language.

Which could be ok, until the overuse abuse begins. Abbreviations, jargon, nonsense technical terms and made up words are everywhere, emojis are routinely used instead of actual language.

Sure, time is of the essence but these shortcuts often do more harm than good- the misuse of these terms just makes you look like a tool. 

Why do we use jargon in the first place?

Part of it can be attributed to laziness- it can be easier to fling a phrase into the conversation that to actually thoughtfully choose words. Some people seem to feel that jargon can seem to sound more professional or businesslike.

Unfortunately, that idea often backfires when jargon filled conversations and emails or letters sound stilted and stupid. Using jargon is an easy trap to fall into; many, too many, do.  

So, let’s list some of the real bullshit terms that appear far too frequently in nonprofit conversations.

 

1.    Ballpark figure: range of numbers that circle the project or calculations

In a sentence: Could you give me a ballpark idea of the revenue you expect?”

Try these:

  • Estimate
  • Projection
  • Range

( Dodger Stadium, the largest MLB field holds 56,000 bodies, so that ballpark is pretty wide….) 

2.    Bandwidth:  available resources or capacity  for a project.

In a sentence:  “I am not sure we have the bandwidth to produce a large event.“

Try these:

  • Staff, Energy
  • Time
  • Technology
  • Skill, Experience

3.     Circle Back: to return to a topic at a later time.

In a sentence: “I’ll circle back with you regarding the event in a week or so.”

Instead:

  • Get back to you
  • Check in
  • Follow up
  • Talk to you again soon

 

4.      Cutting Edge: the latest or greatest method, product, or idea.

In a sentence: “The application of cutting edge technology allows us to collect data more efficiently.”

How about:

  • New
  • Leading
  • Advanced
  • Groundbreaking

 

5.        Deep Dive: to research something in great(er) detail

In a sentence: “A deep dive into the topic reveals additional viewpoints we need to include in our discussion.’

Maybe Instead:

  • Let’s look into this more closely
  • An in-depth review
  • Detailed research

6.       Donor:  a person, family or group that contributes to your charitable cause.

In a sentence:Thanks to our generous donors, 25 new dog beds were delivered to the shelter”

How About:

  • Supporters
  • Contributor
  • Partners
  • Friends
  • Community members

 

7.     Donor Pipeline: prospective donors at different stages of making a donation.

In a sentence: It will be important to introduce website visitors into our donor pipeline.”

Maybe:

  • Contact list
  • Potential supporters
  • Prospects

 

8.      Disruption: abrupt replacement of the usual way of doing things (think Uber vs taxis).

In a sentence: “Bank disruptors, transportation disruption, insurance disruptors. Digital disruption has changed the way many things are done.”

Instead:

  • Challenging the market
  • Rethinking the problem and solutions
  • Creative approaches to existing problems

 

9.     Granular: review with the highest, and often ridiculous, amount of detail.

In a sentence:The only way to really understand the scope of this problem to get granular about it.’ 

Alternatives:

  • Identify specific details
  • Be highly specific
  • Narrow the focus

 

10.    Innovation: New products, processes, or ways of thinking and/or execution.

In a sentence:Innovation will be the key to revising our programs to stay relevant. “

How About:

  • New ideas
  • Creative thinking
  • Changes in perspective

 

11.      Impact:  the tangible, positive results of your mission and work

In a sentence:We have seen the dramatic and positive impact of our presence in the community.’

Alternatives:

Bonus points: impact is a noun, not a verb!  you may have indeed created an impact, but you cannot impact  a thing.

12.   Low Hanging Fruit: the easiest or most accessible to acquire or obtain: donors, customers, members.

Instead:

In a sentence: “We should design our campaign to address the low hanging fruit.”

Alternatives:

  • Easy access
  • Simplest options
  • Easiest goals

 

13.     Move the Needle: to incrementally make progress toward a goal.

In a sentence: “Each of us has the ability to move the needle on saving endangered species.”

Alternatives:

  • Make progress
  • Make a difference
  • Productive gain or progress

 

14.     Pick Your Brain:  to get insight from someone more knowledgeable on a particular topic.

In a sentence: “Percy, I’d like to pick your brain on new ways we might segment our communications.”

Alternatives:

  • Get your thoughts on
  • Ask you a few questions
  • Hear more about

 

15.    Piggyback:  to take advantage of someone else’s knowledge or experience for your own needs

In a sentence: “To piggyback off of Rose’s comment about the CTR on the December event reminders, I think we should tweak the copy to sound more casual.”

Alternatives:

  • Push that idea further
  • Add a thought
  • Continue that idea
  • I agree, and think…

 

16.    Reach out: please, just don’t.

Used in a sentence: “ “Okay, I will reach out to her next week”.

Alternatives:

  • Call
  • Email
  • Text
  • Smoke signals
  • Morse code

 

17.   Soft Ask:  to appeal for a donation or desired action in a way that is less direct or forward.

I personally hate”soft ask” there is NO such thing!

In a sentence: “Make sure subscriber welcome emails include a soft ask.”

Alternatives:

  • Call to action
  • Ask
  • Participation
  • Investment

 

18.   Silo: When people or departments  work in isolation from each other.

In a sentence: “If our departments didn’t work in silos, I would’ve known Audrey was emailing a program update to our donors the same day I sent them an appeal.”

Alternatives:

  • Separation
  • Isolation

 

19.    Take This Offline: to address a topic at a later time, or to talk in person. 

In a sentence: “You have some excellent, points, but I think it would be best to take this offline and discuss later.”

Alternatives:

  • Talk about this later
  • Come back to this later

Or

  • Meet in person
  • Talk on the phone

Alternatives:

  • Get your thoughts on
  • Ask you a few questions
  • Hear more about

 

20.     Thought Leader:  A person or organization that actively speaks on a certain topic and whose opinion has influence in that space.

In a sentence: “Jack Sprat is considered a thought leader in the “Eat No Fat” movement as a public figure.”

Alternatives:

  • Influencer
  • Reputable source
  • Pioneer

21.    Think outside the box: considering new or different options

In a sentence:  “This problem will be more easily solved if we can think outside of the box.”

Instead:

  • Be creative
  • Try a fresh approach 
  • Try something new

 

22 .   Underserved: disadvantaged groups & populations. For instance, children in low income areas do not have sufficient access to medical care. 

In a sentence: “The people of Little Whinging are, medically, the most underserved population in our country.”

Alternatives:

  • Ill-supported
  • In need of support
  • In need of access

23.    Utilize- same as use, with more letters

In a sentence: We can utilize this cutting edge data to move the needle on the deep dive on our programs for the underserved.

Alternatives:

  • use
  • apply
  • employ

24.    Viral: for something to spread like a virus—quick and widespread.

In a sentence: “Bill wants our video to go viral and be like the Ice Bucket Challenge.”

Alternatives:

  • Widespread
  • Quickly circulated
  • Heavily shared

While it can be tempting to use insider language in an attempt to seem to be more clued in, the actual result is that it is sloppy- choose words that actually say what you mean. 

You are smart enough and for sure you know your shit; let those you communicate with know that with clear, direct and meaningful word choices. 

Need some help getting out of a jargon rut?   

We’d love to think out of the box, do a deep and granular dive to help you reach out to that low hanging fruit.  😉

Click here now: 

 

 

image credit: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/federal-eye/wp/2015/07/09/disincentivize-facilitate-streamline-and-other-government-jargon-to-ditch-on-federal-web-sites/?utm_term459338573081

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