The dos and don’ts for using industry jargon in internal communication

Natasa Milojevic

Last updated on: January 20, 2022

When a designer sends you a direct message saying that leading needs to be changed, don’t jump to your feet. There’s probably nothing wrong with your leadership style — so you can probably go back to your seat. It’s much more likely that your team is guilty of abusing industry jargon. 

Is there a solution besides removing them from a channel in your team chat app? 

Maybe you should become a jack of all trades just to keep the conversation with your coworkers going? 

Before you surround yourself with thousands of dictionary pages, you should probably know that there is a better way to navigate industry jargon in your organization — and we are here to help you out. 

We’ve listed both the examples and all the dos and don’ts when dealing with industry jargon in your internal communication. Although they don’t involve sentencing your team members to silence, they are just as efficient in preventing your team’s words from throwing everyone into confusion. 

The dos and don'ts for using industry jargon in internal communication - cover

What is industry jargon? 

Think of a grid system or a bounce rate. Do these terms ring a bell? 

If they don’t, that’s because they are probably outside your area of expertise. 

Whenever you use a word that someone from a different department would have trouble understanding, you use industry jargon. 

Therefore, industry jargon covers the vocabulary mainly understood by a group of people belonging to a specific profession. These expressions and words are usually technical terms that people working in a particular industry frequently use to communicate with each other. 

Let’s see some of the shapes industry jargon can take across different fields.

Examples of industry jargon in IT

Perhaps you’ve heard some of your coworkers talking about bandwidth, but you couldn’t wrap your mind around the term. Now’s the time to break the spell of confusion and come to know what all the IT experts are actually talking about.

🔶 Deployment

What does it mean?

If you thought your tech department was talking about military troops when discussing deployment, it’s time to think twice. 

In IT, deployment refers to the entire process of setting up new software or hardware, from the installation and testing to its implementation.


What does it mean?

Although the first thing that comes to your mind when you see this term is probably last night’s basketball match, your IT colleagues think of something different when they use this acronym. 

MVP in tech means minimum viable product

When releasing an MVP version of a software, it basically means the software will provide only its basic, crucial functions.   

🔶 Commit

What does it mean?

Your IT department probably doesn’t think of doing anything wrong whenever they use the word commit. It’s much more likely they intend to save some changes previously made in the database. 

Examples of industry jargon in Marketing

Whenever your marketing department shares its newest strategy, you feel entirely tied in knots. When this happens, the kernel of all the problems could be their industry jargon.

Let’s find out what the marketing people are talking about.

🔶 Impressions

What does it mean?

Whenever a marketing lead mentions impressions, they are most definitely not talking about the opinion they have of their newest team member. 

Impressions in marketing are used to discuss the number of times someone has potentially seen their content (an ad, a social media post, or a web page). 

🔶 Breadcrumbs

What does it mean?

If the first thing that came to your mind when you heard of breadcrumbs was the famous fairytale “Hansel and Gretel,” this time, you’re on to something! 

The same way the two kids from the story leave traces of breadcrumbs to find their way back home, breadcrumbs in the digital world help visitors of a website easily navigate back to another part of the website.

🔶 Lead generation

What does it mean?

Contrary to popular belief, lead generation has nothing to do with leadership. 

In marketing, this term is mainly used to discuss the process of getting the potential customers’ attention and turning them into buyers. 

Examples of industry jargon in Design

A picture may be worth a thousand words, so your design team might prefer to create in silence. However, if they choose to use the words it takes ages to decipher whenever they meet up with you, industry jargon is to blame. Let’s see what is really in their words.

🔶 Hierarchy

What does it mean?

Although this term is usually used to talk about a system within an organization, it takes a slightly different shape in design. Whenever you hear your design team talking about hierarchy, they are most likely plotting a visual content strategy. 

Simply put, visual hierarchy is the arrangement of content according to elements’ importance. For example, your design team might decide to make the keyword bold to ensure it attracts attention. 

🔶 Widow

What does it mean?

If you have spotted this word in your team messaging app, you have probably brushed it aside, thinking your team members have yet again forgotten to move their informal chats to the #random channel

Before you conclude that the design team is casually chatting about a woman who lost her spouse instead of focusing on finishing an infographic in time, you may want to know what widows mean to a designer. 

A widow in design is a short line or a word usually found at the end of a paragraph, making the text look out of balance.   

🔶 Bleed

What does it mean?

Don’t grab your phone to call 911 when you spot a designer talking about a bleed. Chances are, the word is about the extra empty space a designer creates before they send a design out to printing. 

Examples of industry jargon in HR

Even though your HR department communicates with the rest of the company more frequently than the rest of the teams, they are still not immune to industry jargon. Every now and then, an acronym could slip out, and this is where the rest of the employees might scratch their heads. To avoid uncertainty, take a closer look at some of the terms your HR experts use.

🔶 Metrics

What does it mean?

Maybe you are used to your marketing department being the only one to talk about metrics. However, the term is widely used across different industries, and in HR, metrics are usually used to assess the company’s expenses per employee, turnover rate, employee satisfaction, etc.

🔶 Golden handshake

What does it mean?

If you have never heard of this expression before, a golden handshake is usually used to talk about the compensation an employee receives when leaving a company. 

🔶 80/20 

What does it mean?

Did you know that when you hear your HR specialists talking about the 80/20 principle, they are probably discussing the trouble-makers within your company? 

The 80/20 in HR usually means that 80% of all the issues are caused by 20% of team members. 

The dos of using industry jargon in internal communication

Sometimes, there’s no other expression to use but PPC (pay-per-click) when you describe your new advertising strategy. Other times, you are just too busy to think about your audience, so you go for the first word that comes to mind. 

Although there is no strict rule preventing you from expressing your business ideas in acronyms, taking a couple of steps back before you share them across departments might do the trick of preventing miscommunication from taking over. 

Don’t worry, you don’t need to cross the industry jargon from your list of frequently used words. Just go through all the things we’ve listed you should do when you plan on using industry jargon, and you’ll keep the confusion at a distance. 

Do explain your words

You don’t have to face a crowd of confused faces to give you a hint that your team members are not able to follow you. Sometimes, the fear of coming across as incompetent could lead your colleagues to pretend like they got your point. Other times, your team might be afraid of asking questions — which is especially true for the newcomers.

Whichever the case, whenever you plan on using industry jargon, it’s always better to assume your recipients might not understand you. So, try to provide context or additional information before sending a message to ensure everyone’s on the same page. 

The following examples could give you some ideas on making yourself clear. 

❌Instead of using: ✅Try saying:
CTRClick-through rate(number of users who click on links)
PPIPixels per inch
ShowstopperAnything that prevents software from launching

Do think of your audience

Maybe it comes naturally to use phrases such as system hardening (the process of minimizing the vulnerability of systems or software) when discussing with your team. Somebody could even voice their concerns and offer suggestions on the new code to increase security measures. 

Now, imagine you decided to let everyone else know about the incoming process by posting an announcement in the #general channel of your business messaging platform. Some of the employees responded by using a check mark emoji (✔️), but none of them replied to your announcement. 

There’s no room for hard feelings when most employees do not show any interest in your words. Perhaps they have never heard of a system hardening and are just too busy to google it. 

Instead of assuming industry jargon is common knowledge, opt for putting some commonly used jargon words in writing. Creating a document that contains some of the most frequently used technical terms lets you go two steps ahead and even helps your new employees adjust to the new environment more quickly.  

Certain chat apps, such as Pumble, let you pin your announcement to a channel so that everyone can have the important information within reach. 

In Pumble, pinning a document to a channel helps everyone from your team find it in a matter of seconds
In Pumble, pinning a document to a channel helps everyone from your team find it in a matter of seconds

Do double-check your expressions

If you think industry jargon makes you sound more professional and competent, it might be time to question this belief. Organizational psychology research has shown that although industry jargon does help increase the effectiveness of communication within your field, it is also more frequently found in conversations of lower-status professionals. 

Using it to demonstrate their membership to a particular group, they tend to overuse jargon because of their insecurity and a desire to climb the professional ladder.

Next time you want to share the marketing department’s recent success with the entire company, instead of saying:

“The Marketing department has finished their A/B testing, and now they are confident we can improve our CRs in no time!“,

try saying:

“The Marketing department has finished comparing different copywriting styles. After a thorough analysis, they have picked one copy that can potentially increase our audience.” 

The first sentence does look less time-consuming to compose because it contains an acronym instead of a lengthy word. However, deciding to take this shortcut could lead you to waste time in the long run. 

Choosing industry jargon over a commonly used expression could lead to more questions than happy faces. 

Instead of joining you in on the celebration, your team members could come to a conclusion that you were just trying to show off using fancy words and decide to pay no attention to your announcement. 

Do consider different meanings

Language is a powerful, but complex tool. 

Two people can spot the word tea on a billboard at the same moment and yet not receive the same message. 

One of them might instantly think of their favorite green tea and immediately start smiling, while the other, who despises tea, could even start feeling a bit nauseous. 

Imagine what happens when you use the word analytics in front of the entire company. 

Without any context, your HR team could think that the word is about their newest turnover rate report. 

The finance team, still in the process of completing their last month’s report, might shudder at the very thought of this vague word. 

The marketing department might start hurriedly looking for their performance reports, leaving everything they’ve been working on behind. 

As an alternative to wreaking havoc on everyone’s workflow, always check if there’s an alternative to the word you intended to use. 

If your first choice is even slightly ambiguous, it’s time to look away and go for another phrase. 

The don’ts of using industry jargon in internal communication

Skipping on the industry jargon in internal communication altogether sounds like a pie in the sky — entirely out of reach. Sometimes there simply isn’t a proper substitute for a word with a precise meaning — so your audience is to blame for their puzzled looks. 

Other times, when the meaning of your words is unclear to everyone outside of your department, crossed wires are your responsibility. 

To reduce the chances of having to solve round-the-clock misunderstandings, pay special attention to all the don’ts of using industry jargon in internal communication we’ve carefully put together.

Don’t use industry jargon all the time

When you don’t pay enough attention to your words and use some expressions too often, not only do you risk sounding like a broken record, but you also increase the possibility of your listeners entirely tuning out. 

Before you blame your coworkers for being absent-minded, take a look at what science has to say about this issue. 

Namely, psychologists have shown that repetitive use of the same word leads to its complete loss of meaning, and this phenomenon is called semantic satiation. Without its meaning, the word starts to sound funny” and almost seems like it’s not a word at all.  

Perhaps you have provided your coworkers with a detailed glossary of the industry jargon they need to know. Even though they are not in the dark anymore and can follow the conversation naturally, if you use too many repeated acronyms, it’s entirely understandable for them to stop paying attention to your words. 

To prevent switching off from becoming part of everyone’s workflow, always try to use industry jargon in small doses instead of letting it wander around your team chat app channels. 

Don’t use the words you don’t understand

Time and time again, science has shown that people tend to use long and complicated words because they believe they make them sound smarter. 

Using disbursement instead of payment or promulgating instead of communicating is an easy path to misunderstandings — especially if you are not sure of the exact meaning behind the big words you use. 

The same goes with industry jargon. 

When handled with care, jargon can actually benefit the conversation.

 If everyone is familiar with the terms and they contribute to the discussion, feel free to use them. 

However, if you have to grab a dictionary before saying a word aloud, maybe it’s time to go for another, simpler option. 

💡If all the buzzwords leave you clueless about what to say at the workplace, make sure not to skip on Business communication words and phrases: what to use and what to avoid

Don’t use industry jargon to avoid answering questions

Now and then, regardless of experience and expertise, we all have a hard time finding the right answer to certain questions. 

Trying to avoid responding to tough questions might be your first call — and acronyms and complicated technical jargon come in handy for that purpose. 

Although it might save the day for a second, using industry jargon to hide information from your team is equal to turning your back on transparent communication within your organization.

Instead of turning to industry jargon, go for honesty. Demonstrate that you are aware of the employees’ questions and that you will do your best to provide them with answers as soon as possible. 

Wrapping up: Always use industry jargon with caution

As with all the tools, if we don’t handle words safely enough, we might end up with greater damage than we have started with. 

Industry jargon, although a handy instrument for communicating ideas with a group of people belonging to the same industry, when used in internal communication at all costs, takes a heavy toll on the meaning of our words.

Since there’s no instruction manual for the industry jargon, most of the time, you will have to rely on your own judgment before using it. 

However, before you hastily reach for the keyboard to show your mastery of any topic, make sure to take a long look at your audience. 

If it seems like jargon could set the eye-rollings, use it in moderation. 

Author: NatasaMilojevic

Natasa Milojevic is a writer and researcher dedicated to exploring the depths of human communication and collaboration. You can usually find her engrossed in her research on the quickest and most reliable ways of transmitting ideas in a remote work environment. Leaving no stone unturned until she discovers the most valuable advice for fostering efficient teamwork collaboration, Natasa spends most of her days behind the keyboard.

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