Ad and marketing creatives
Red Pen Diaries: Stop Abbreviation Abuse Now!
And now from our friends at Editorial Emergency, a brief rant against abbreviated jargon, from "fail" to "convo": "If you feel like an idiot saying something out loud, don't say it in writing either."
In most digital media — from text messages and tweets to marketing e-blasts and Web pages — brevity is the soul of wit. But I wonder if those using "fail" as a stand-in for "failure" are simply witless.
If you regularly use "fail" instead of "failure," please tell me why. Is it because you think it sounds cool? (It doesn't.) Is it because you're in a hurry? If the latter, how much time do you save in not typing "ure?"
Plenty of other words are getting this shabby treatment, too, particularly in written communication of the digital variety.
There's "install," as in, "Jeez, this install is taking forever." Is the "ation" really such a burden?
Some people apparently think "Are you going to the meet?" is more efficient than "Are you going to the meeting?" They're also the types to use "convo," short for "conversation."
It's abbreviation abuse, plain and simple. And it's spreading.
I was reading something nonprofit-related recently when I came across "devo." Really? That's how you want to refer to "development," the all-important work of raising funds and broadening your reach? Better you should be citing the concept of "de-evolution," which is what the band Devo is named after.
Many of these offenses stem from a reliance on my archenemy, jargon, with the neo-nouns "fail" and "install" emigrating from the technology sector (the fine folks who also brought us "solutions"). While it's true that people adopt the specialized argot of their profession to appear knowledgeable, we also do it to connect with others in our field, to prove that we speak the language, that we're part of the "us," not the "them."
But when we try to communicate with folks outside our sphere, the use of jargon has the opposite effect — it distances you from people who aren't conversant with the lingo; it suggests you don't speak their language. I would argue that even among colleagues, leaning on jargon can separate you from your peers because it's frequently a substitute for more authentic, and thus more meaningful, expression.
A preponderance of jargon also suggests a certain insecurity. If you write an e-mail that says, "The convo we had at last week's meet about the devo department's fail led to today's install," you may need to have a heart-to-heart with yourself: Is your spewing of this terminology a smoke screen for your lack of understanding, your inability to fit in? Are you inadvertently highlighting something you mean to hide?
Or maybe we're just lazy. It doesn't take significantly more effort to type "installation" than it does "install," but it does take more effort to express yourself directly and effectively without falling back on jargon. By making that effort, however, you're much more likely to connect, inspire trust and persuade — all of which are critical in negotiating our professional paths (not to mention building our brands).
Maybe these truncations are merely the ceaseless evolution of English. But maybe they're not. Here's a rule of thumb: If you feel like an idiot saying something out loud — "That meet went on forever"; "I'm so glad we had this convo"; "Our devo people are clueless about marketing" — don't say it in writing either.
So, we've taken to task "fail," "install," "meet," "convo" and "devo" — do you have anything to add? Carp on in the comments below, my friend. And rest assured that at least we've chased "'tude" from the language. I hope.