Avoiding Slang, Jargon, and Cliché
Definition

When you write, you want to communicate meaning as clearly and concisely as possible. Slang, jargon, and cliche' clutter writing so that meaning gets lost in the words. This tutorial will help you to recognize each of these enemies to clear, concise writing and help you to avoid them.

Slang

Slang is street language--the highly informal language that works just fine for conversations between friends but is inappropriate in formal writing. Slang is often specific to social groups or regions of the country. For example, carbonated drinks are called "pop" in the North and "Coke" in the South. Southerners often address both friends and strangers as "Ya'll" while northerners may refer to "you guys." Slang is also sometimes referred to as colloquial, a term which describes the very limited audience likely to understand its meaning. While slang may be perfectly appropriate for talking with friends, you should avoid using slang when you write since it is so easily misunderstood.

Jargon

Jargon is the specialized language of a discipline or profession. Imagine a soccer team at a team meeting, a conversation between computer programmers working on a project, or a group of medical specialists at a conference. Each group uses words and phrases that are meaningful to a specific audience but fail to communicate to the general public. Jargon isn't necessarily bad; instead, it's limited. A computer specialist is expected to use the language of his profession, as is a doctor, an athlete, or any other specialist. However, when jargon is used in text addressed to a general audience, the writer sounds snobby or pretentious.

Cliché

The word cliché is French and refers to a clay mold used to produce multiple identical images. Thus, a cliché is a trite, overused expression that lacks originality. Clichés tell the reader, "You've heard this before, so go to sleep; no attention necessary." Readers pay only minimal attention when a character is described as being "over the hill" or when told that his mood was "black as midnight." Clichés and put readers to sleep. Choose fresh, vivid expressions rather than clichés.