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I write and edit a lot of copy for clients, and about half of them send me material that starts off reading like a cryptographer’s training manual.

My church seems particularly addicted to using arcane acronyms when publicizing its events.  Invitations are written like: “Come to UUSF’s SCW luncheon in the MLK with PCD delegates.” Sounds like something you want to do, right?

The addiction to alphabet soup acronyms  and jargon isn’t always accidental.  When I have replaced “UU’s welcome you…” with “Unitarian Universalists welcome you…” I have gotten told off by some of the original authors.  “‘Unitarian Universalist’ is too wordy,” I have been instructed.

Yes, “Unitarian Universalist” is indeed a mouthful. If the organization’s name is too long, then perhaps a catchier name should be adopted. But, announcement writers shouldn’t adopt in-group shorthand in their work. Non-Unitarian Universalists may not have a clue what a “UU” is. Once readers have been introduced to the full term, the abbreviation can be specified and used later on.  “Unitarian Universalists (UUs) welcome you to the UU picnic.”  Or, something more exciting, but along the same lines.

Similarly, when I rewrite messages about services from professionals like lawyers and accountants, I am questioned if my straight-forward, non-jargon language sounds educated enough.  It’s like a potential client won’t hire the firm if the attorney’s web site uses English sentences instead of Latin-infused contract terminology.

Here’s the truth: visitors will click away from your web site if you speak to them in code.  Unless you are the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, NASA-like acronyms make you sound cultish and not open to newcomers.  And, using industry jargon — whether it is educated jargon or just simple convenient jargon — puts distance between you and your potential client.

Remember who you are writing for and leave both abbreviations and in-terms out of your writing.