Jargon & Other Bad Copy: A Marketer’s Guide to What to Avoid and Why

Jargon is a marketer’s worst enemy. There are a lot of things that can hurt your conversions when writing landing pages, emails, and other sales copy—but jargon is right up there among the worst. The problem with jargon is that these conversion-destroying words are so easy to use—and difficult to catch. But it should be one of your standard checks before sending out any copy into the wild, especially with landing pages or any other copy designed to get conversionsHere’s what you need to avoid.

Why Jargon Is Such a Problem

At its simplest, jargon is confusing. Some words and expressions are commonly used in every industry, and everyone within that industry understands them. We use jargon all the time. These words sound natural to us, so often we simply don’t realize that we are using them in our sales copy and content marketingBut your mistake is automatically assuming that your reader will understand them too. And when the reader literally doesn’t understand the word, they will be less likely to convert. 

But jargon is not the only problem with marketing copy. Another problem concerns the use of clichés. These tired, worn-out phrases have no impact whatsoever because we use them so much in everyday conversation. But high-converting copy is not like everyday speaking, and every word must be chosen with care.

Clichés might have sounded original once, but they have since become overused to the point where they have lost their impact. There are many, many business clichés (see a few of them here), and you should avoid them all. If you rely too much on jargon and clichés, your copy will be dull, it will sound like you have nothing of interest to say, and your words will have little impact on the reader.

Then there are just those awful meaningless words that so many marketers use in their copy. Some words sound good when you use them in your first draft, but they don’t actually mean anything at all. You know the ones: “State-of-the-art.” “First rate.” “Quality product.” Whoever talks about second-rate or low-quality products? This is you telling your reader what you want them to think, rather than letting them decide.

How to Avoid Jargon

There are a few things you can do to avoid jargon, and here are a few I would recommend trying before you publish your next piece of copy.

Show Don’t Tell

This is age-old advice for novelists, and the same applies when you write marketing copy. When you write clichés and meaningless words, you are telling the reader what to think. If you say that your customer service is exceptional, that is tellingRather than doing this, explain the details of your customer service instead. How do you make it exceptional? Do you reply to emails within the hour? Is someone always on the end of the phone? Provide specifics and show your reader how your service differs. Is your service the best in the local area? Who says so? How is it the best? What specific things make you the best? Let your readers see this information and make up their own minds—this is far more convincing.

Let Your Customers Sell Your Solution

Superlatives are easy to use. It’s easy to describe your product as the “best,” or the “fastest.” But they mean very little when you use them in your copy. Anyone can say they are the best, but it doesn’t convince. But when someone else uses words like this, the copy becomes a lot more effective. You telling your readers that your service is the best means nothing. But if a customer says: “This is by far the best shoe polish I have ever used,” that means something to the reader. So if you want to state how great your products are with superlatives, use them in testimonials instead of stating them yourself.

Use Simple Words

“Keep it simple” is classic advice when writing copy, and you should always have this in mind. Marketers make this mistake all the time. They feel that the simplest words are too simple, and they want to sound clever instead. So they say “utilize” rather than “use.” Or “cost-effective” rather than “cheap.” You can make copy easier to read by getting rid of some words altogether. For example, adverbs are rarely required. “Really” and “very” are two words to scrap in most cases, and there are plenty more adverbs you can do without.

Let Someone Else Read Your Copy First

A simple way to catch industry jargon is to get someone outside of your industry to read your copy for you. A partner, perhaps, or your child. What words do they not understand immediately? Get them to highlight the words. If they represent your typical customer and they don’t know what you mean, you can bet that other people won’t know what the words mean either.

Great Examples of What to Avoid

I won’t pick on any companies here for using bad jargon, but here are some links to terrible jargon that you need to avoid:

Make your own list of jargon that you find yourself using, and you can then use this as a guide when you write future copy.

Great Tool for Catching Jargon

To finish off, here’s a great little tool you can use. It’s the “Dejargonator Chrome Extension” from Unbounce, and with one click, you can pick out loads of classic jargon phrases and by highlighting them in red. You can download the extension hereAlternatively, keep a document of all your commonly used jargon words, and check them against every piece of copy you write. Whatever you do, make sure you keep an eye out for jargon and clichés. It will hurt your conversions if you’re not careful, but it’s easy to get rid of when you spot it, so it’s always worth doing.