Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Don't gloss over words in a single bound... Don't be Jargonman!

Journalists are required to get newsmakers who spew out jargon to explain those terms, and in language that a layman understands. Often, such an exercise requires the journalist to recast those troublesome phrases and to ask the newsmaker: "Do you mean...". So there might have to be some back and forth.

To be fair, every profession has its share of jargon. Editors "kill" or "spike" (discard) stories (the word "stories" itself is jargon); for a morning daily, the day's edition is finally "put to bed" (sent off for printing), etc. But if such words are found in a "story", they need to be explained.

My concern is that Singaporean newspaper readers accept the jargon they come across without any protest. The jargon-filled story on "big data" I cited in my blogpost yesterday must have been hard to follow. That very phrase "big data" -- the relentless and sheer increase in the volume, variety and accumulation of potentially usable statistics and information in today's highly computerised world -- was not explained at all (I just tried to do so above, albeit with so many words).

This Baby Blues cartoon-strip panel gives a humorous glimpse into jargonspeak:

But not all jargon can be laughed off. Jargon can be deceptive...

The writer above (he wrote an article for ST's Recruit page) gave some useful advice:


Here is an egregious example of jargon:

In this example below, what does "people who are impacted" mean?...

For some strange reason, public transportspeak is prone to jargonspeak...

Decant? People can be decanted, like wine? (Apparently, the Brits use this term to describe the act of transferring people to another place.) Even shoes get "distressed", becoming victims of jargon!...

So, avoid jargon. Don't be Jargonman!...


I'm done with jargon for now.

I'm back to spotting careless writing. These two examples are from ST (June 4):

Wow, the police dogs in Beijing can act as informants (using quote marks does not clarify anything) and even patrol the streets (on their own)!

As for this one below, it seems inexcusable as it is -- prominently -- the very first paragraph of a story that many people will read:

Just in case anyone failed to spot the glaring error (like the checkers), here it is, circled:


I'm always curious about the origin of words. So I'll wrap up with this nugget:

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