An argument for jargon

Subject: An argument for jargon
From: Michele Marques <mmarques -at- CMS400 -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 19 Mar 1999 11:57:24 -0500

The discussion between Carl Stieren and Steven J. Owens (in their discussion
of WWW terminology and where to discover the appropriate terms) raises
some interesting issues about jargon, .

Carl writes that he does not want to consult RFC documents and papers from
the W3 consortium (the official documents which would include the official
jargon), but wants to get the terms from *technical writers.* I assume that he is
trying to avoid jargon (one prescription for writers) and in searching for wording
that other technical writers use, is trying to find terms that are precise without
being "jargon".

I agree with Steven that jargon can label precise distinctions. If you are looking
for a term to describe a precise feature (e.g. a certain portion of a URL), it
makes sense to go to the official sources. If you don't want to wade through
pages of dry text, try looking on the official sites (or in the back/front of RFCs)
for glossaries.

I don't believe that using the official jargon when you need to refer to something
precisely, is necessarily snobbism. I would go further than Steven and say that
if you are making up your own terms or colluding with other technical writers to
share terms other than the official jargon, that you are creating your own jargon.
The terms that you use throughout your writing, especially if used in other
documents, will become the terms (or jargon) that your readers will learn. I
believe this will only cause confusion later on, as they try to make sense of
different documents on the same topic - each with their own sets of jargon.

Even in a document that is more casual in tone, it is possible to introduce
jargon without being elitist. If there is a need to use that term frequently, it will
enter the common language and stop being jargon. For example, I remember a
few years ago when "URL" was considered jargon and needed to be explained
when writing for a general audience. These days you can read and hear the
term in magazines and on general television shows.

Michele Marques
Technical Writer, CMS Manufacturing
mmarques -at- cms400 -dot- com
905-477-4499 x280

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