Do the Aunt Bertha test

creative commons flickr – Anwar Shamim

If you check the definition of jargon on wikipedia, you’ll get a good example of dictionary- jargon: ‘Jargon is the technical terminology or characteristic idiom of a special activity occupational or social group’.  A simple definition would be ‘the language used by people who work in a particular area or who have a common interest.’

There’s nothing wrong with using jargon when communicating with your colleagues who grasp the ‘language’. Yet it can make things very complicated for people who don’t work in your own field of expertise. It’s caused by the Curse of Knowledge, because you assume your listeners possess the same knowledge level as you do (or at least under- stand the basics of your work domain). But that’s an illusion.

To avoid jargon, apply the Aunt Bertha test: imagine telling your story to your 78 year-old aunt Bertha.

What words will you use? How will you phrase your sentence? What metaphor can you use to make it as simple as possible?

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