Communicating your expertise: how to spot and minimise tech talk

Clare Lynch
A free video tutorial from Clare Lynch
Cambridge University writing tutor & professional copywriter
4.4 instructor rating • 11 courses • 110,058 students

Lecture description

How to keep your reader with you - by pitching your writing at the right level.

Learn more from the full course

Business Writing For Busy People

Write clearly and compellingly - for colleagues, clients and other key stakeholders

48:28 of on-demand video • Updated November 2020

  • Work out what you want to say quickly and painlessly
  • Craft clear, concise, compelling business documents - from emails to reports
  • Grab and keep your readers' attention with powerful messages
  • Structure your writing for maximum impact
  • Achieve a professional tone of voice in your writing
  • Identify and eliminate tech talk and off-putting business jargon
English Many years ago I was teaching a workshop on how to write. During the workshop I was emphasizing the need to avoid jargon in your copy. At that point one of the participants put her hand up and asked me 'what do you mean by copy?'. I'd fallen into the expert trap or otherwise known as 'the curse of knowledge'. The curse of knowledge is the phenomenon that once you know something it's really hard to imagine not knowing it. I knew that copy meant writing but I'd forgotten what it was like not to recognize this common piece of writer's jargon. Technical terms can be useful if you're talking to fellow experts. They can be a great shorthand when everyone's at the same level. For example if you're a doctor and you use terms like myocardial infarction and hemorrhaging, all your fellow doctors will know exactly what you mean. But research has shown that most of us wouldn't recognize those terms as heart attack and bleeding. The secret to avoiding tech talk is to imagine yourself in the shoes of a smart newbie. For example take yourself back to your first day in the organization that you're working at now. I bet people around you were using baffling terms that were completely new and strange to you. Terms that are probably part of your day to day vocabulary now. The danger is that in using those terms you might be wrongly assuming that others are in on the jargon. So pitch your writing at the new graduate trainee on their first day of the job. Someone who is obviously smart but may not be fully up to speed with insider terms. Another tip is to read what your reader reads, and by that I mean read what they choose to read. What they'll pay to read rather than what they have to read. If you're in finance pay attention to the language of the FT or the Wall Street Journal. If you're in marketing or advertising consider how Brand Republic talks about your field. Or if you're an engineer immerse yourself in the language of design news. When it comes to grabbing your readers attention these publications are your competitors, not other bankers, brand consultants or engineers. So learn from them. What words that they use? How did they deal with specialist terms? You'll probably notice industry publications take a lot less knowledge for granted than you thought. And explain terms more than you ever even noticed before. Finally ditch those TLA's, three letter abbreviations. For example if you're in customer relationship management you might be tempted to use the word CRM. Now that's fine if you're talking to others who are also in customer relationship management, but do bear in mind that the website lists 127 definitions for CRM. Some are from closely related but presumably different fields such as customer relationship marketing. Others are from widely different fields including cockpit resource management, or training pilots to fly safely, cardiac rhythm management otherwise known as fitting pacemakers. And my all time favorite Club Ricky Martin.