Buzzwords, Jargon, and Portmanteaus

rogersgeorge on May 30th, 2017

Okay, my previous post is out of order. I mentioned a “previous post” about portmanteau words, but it was a post whose material was in my saddlebag—I hadn’t posted it yet! So here’s that material:

A definition is in order: jargon is language that fits into a narrow field and might be unknown elsewhere. Jargon doesn’t need to consist of portmanteau words, but lots of times it happens. Here’s the Fastrack comic that got me started on this topic:

The comments on the site are pretty good, too. Some of these are portmanteaus, and some are just plain jargon. Jargon that gets overused are buzzwords, by the way.

And while I’m on the subject, the excellent daily  blog A Word A Day is mentioning portmanteaus this week (starting May 29, 2017). Go look. Subscribe!

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Who are your readers?

rogersgeorge on October 23rd, 2011

I don’t generally quote others because what they say is good. I prefer to quote mistakes. But I ran into something the other day that is so good, and so in line with one of my guiding principles, that I have to share it. My humblest thanks to astronomer and writer Phil Plait, and to the American Geophysical Union, where he got this table.  Phil’s article (click his link) is particularly worth reading. He also mentions the original source, an article by Richard C. J. Somerville and Susan Joy Hassol, from the October 2011 issue of Physics Today.

The guiding principle is that you must write for your readership. Before you publish, have an idea of your readers’ knowledge of the subject you’re writing about, and  understand what stake they have in your content; in other words, work at figuring out what they know coming in, and what you want them to take away.  This means, among other things, that you should reflect on your use of specialized words—either define or don’t use vocabulary that your readers might get wrong.

Without further ado:

Click twice to see it full size. Print this and tape it to your wall if you're not a scientist and you read things about science.