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In content marketing and in journalism, the word jargon has come to be used mostly as an insult. It's a label that people put on unfamiliar language they dismiss as gibberish.

Jargon has another meaning, though, and it doesn't have an inherently negative connotation: the specialized vocabulary or language that a profession or group uses. Often riddled with industry-specific acronyms and colloquialisms, industry jargon is difficult for outsiders to understand.

Content marketers contemplating whether to use that sort of jargon need to note whether their target audience is general and broad, or specialized and narrow.

If you're targeting a general audience (say, you're writing a beer commercial), you should comply with conventional wisdom and avoid jargon. But if you're writing or speaking to a highly specialized group, as content developers are increasingly doing, you should consider embracing jargon.

Here are three things jargon can do for you

Don't avoid jargon reflexively; first consider the following three criteria for useful jargon that can help make your content more effective.

1. Using jargon (correctly) identifies you as an insider, a trustworthy peer of your target audience

Years ago, I wrote a blog post about prenups for chess players. If you don't play chess, you would probably be able to generally understand the post, but you wouldn't recognize the acronyms (ICC, FICS, OTB) or the significance of some references (Wijk aan Zee, Linares, blitz, and lightning chess). You almost certainly wouldn't find the post funny, and you might think it's stupid.

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image of Derek Slater

Derek Slater is content director at digital marketing agency Ready State, which brings an investigative approach to marketing. Derek uses his journalism experience to help clients get better results.

Twitter: @derekcslater

LinkedIn: Derek Slater