No, this isn’t a rant about English-only or bilingual workplaces — it’s a rant about corporate jargon sparked when I read an article by Laura Vanderkam, “Why you should cool it with the corporate jargon.”
I understand how internal jargon develops and why using acronyms can save time if everybody understands the code — but that’s a big if. When people don’t speak the language, you can get into trouble.
My own work history is a classic example. We used the acronym CWC at the first two companies I worked for (way back, before the internet). But at the first (a telephone company), CWC meant “customer will call,” indicating there was a pending issue that the customer was going to get back with us on. At the second (a newspaper), it meant “cash with copy,” meaning that an advertisement had to be paid for before it could be submitted to production. At the newspaper, nobody told me what CWC meant until I was responsible for running several unpaid ads.
A more recent example: A client sent me an email, ending it with “NNTR”. I didn’t know what that meant, so I asked. His response: “no need to reply.”
Corporate jargon can also have a negative impact on customer relations. Is there anyone who likes it when the people who are supposed to be providing a service speak in a code you don’t understand?
The trouble corporate jargon can cause is rarely worth the time it saves — if, indeed, it actually does save time in the final analysis. Start listening to the language being spoken in your organization and make sure it’s one everybody can understand.
She is the author of Words to Work By: 31 devotions for the workplace based on the Book of Proverbs and Finding Joy in the Morning: You can make it through the night. She is also the co-creator of several coloring books for adults.
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