I love Jargon: my three biggest peeves about how we think about science communication. #SciComm

I have a fundamentally tactical approach to science communication, which occasionally puts me at odds with more conventional practices. Some of the most common pieces of advice in scicomm tend to be the least effective for accurately and precisely communicating your message to a target audience.

Release the Kraken.

1. The J-Word.

Jargon. Jargon. Jargon. We’re all supposed to eradicate jargon from our outreach. Jargon should be avoided. We need to rehab our use of jargon. Hone your science writing by only using the ten hundred most common words (because ‘thousand’ isn’t among the top 1000 word). Sure, these are good exercises for thinking about how you communicate science, but as actual communication advice, it’s big animal that makes white drink back end drop.

Jargon is beautiful. Jargon is powerful. Not only are jargon words often more precise than their generic equivalent, but jargon acts as a form of shorthand. It tells your intended audience “hey, friend, this article/film/tweet/podcast is for you”. Outreach in all forms is always targeted towards a specific audience. Using jargon well helps define that audience and helps that audience connect to your piece. Smart use of jargon can make a good piece of outreach into a tactical piece of outreach.

Which is not to say that you shouldn’t think about jargon use at all. Understanding how different words are used in different contexts and how technical language can alienate non-specialist audiences is essential to producing high-quality outreach. But the general advice that we should all just avoid jargon the least effective approach possible.

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