Academic Tips and Tricks

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Jargon & Terminology

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I have a rather mixed relationship with jargon, as you can probably tell in my post about Latin. I absolutely believe that some jargon/specific terminology is essential, and that you should learn the terminology essential for your subject. It enables you to talk precisely about a specific thing without resorting to vague or lengthy descriptions or getting caught up in ambiguity.

For example, ‘egalitarianism’ is “the political belief in the equality of all people” – that’s a long sentence, or a short word. If this is a concept you need to talk about a lot, then it’s good to know the right word. The same goes for chemicals, ailments and processes, if you need to be succinct and specific, learn the terms.

However, you can certainly take this too far. In your academic studies you will certainly come across texts which you have to read with dictionary.com permanently on, and unless you’re reading something well above your current level of understanding, or something from a completely unfamiliar discipline (like me when I’m proofreading Economics PhDs) this should not happen. There is no excuse for making writing deliberately hard to understand, whether it’s by using loads of Latin, loads of jargon, or ridiculously complex sentences. It might make you feel big and clever, but if all but a few readers give up or feel excluded because of your writing style then you’ve failed as a writer.

It might be hard to know which terminology is needed and which is not, but my advice would be to only use terminology which is common to your discipline and easily understandable by others within your field, for example, terms like ‘primogeniture’ (first born child) or ‘proselytization’ (the process of converting someone from one faith to another) probably have no place in a linguistics paper – unless you’re focusing on these as a central issue – in which case, do your readers a favour and define your terms when you first use them.

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Author: Liz

Hi, I'm Liz. I like easy crafts, photography, cooking, lifestyle blogs and YouTube videos. I work as a part-time proofreader and am currently studying for a PhD in linguistics.

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