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Should Journalists Embrace Jargon? 184

Posted by samzenpus
from the use-your-words dept.
ananyo writes "In an opinion piece for Nature, science writer Trevor Quirk argues that researchers use jargon to 'capture the complexity and specificity of scientific concepts.' Avoiding jargon might mean that a piece ends up easier to read, but explaining a jargon term using everyday language 'does not present the whole truth,' he says. 'I find it troubling that the same antipathy that some writers express towards jargon has taken root in the public's general attitude towards erudite language. I submit that this is no coincidence. People seem to resent not just specialized language, but any language that requires a large degree of labour to understand, appreciate and use,' he writes. 'The world increases in complexity every day, and we should not let shrink our capacity to describe it.'"
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Should Journalists Embrace Jargon?

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  • Yes, absolutely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_humeister (922869) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @08:08PM (#40771549)

    But first, please stop using "God particle", which is not jargon. It is just stupid.

    • Re:Yes, absolutely (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sir_Sri (199544) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @08:19PM (#40771643)

      That's a great example of where trying to use plain language does more harm than good. On the other hand 'black hole' rather than 'completely gravitationally collapsed object' probably conveys the concept reasonably well.

      Unfortunately science has a habit of using language, and then finding out it does a bad job of describing something, e.g. atoms, and neural networks, which are, despite the names not indivisible and not actually all that similar to neuron connections in the brain respectively.

      Trying to reduce everything to a 6th grade reading level makes people think problems can actually be explained at a 6th grade level, and they can't. That this has crept into economic discourse has caused us no end of grief in trying to have honest fact based discussions about the current economic crisis for example.

      • by khallow (566160)

        Trying to reduce everything to a 6th grade reading level makes people think problems can actually be explained at a 6th grade level, and they can't. That this has crept into economic discourse has caused us no end of grief in trying to have honest fact based discussions about the current economic crisis for example.

        That seems a bad example. The credit default swaps and some other financial instruments are moderately hard to explain, but the real problems such as extremely high leverage and systemic risk aren't that complicated.

        • Re:Yes, absolutely (Score:4, Informative)

          by Sir_Sri (199544) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @01:55AM (#40773697)

          That's more financial sector than economic. What (if anything) should the government be doing to get us out of this economic crisis now that it's here is a huge question. And the moment you start using nonsense jargon like saltwater vs freshwater economics people (probably rightfully) tune you out, but then if you can't talk about nominal vs PPP debt, real versus nominal interest rates and so on you can't even start to have a discussion.

          If you look at the serious economic problem of the day, which is greek and spanish debt, concepts like nominal wage rigidity and internal devaluation are central to understanding why austerity is a disaster for them (it's bad and wrong for everyone else right now too, but when they're trapped in the EURO without a fiscal union they're in particularly bad shape).

          • by khallow (566160)

            but then if you can't talk about nominal vs PPP debt, real versus nominal interest rates and so on you can't even start to have a discussion.

            [...]

            concepts like nominal wage rigidity and internal devaluation are central to understanding why austerity is a disaster for them

            And all those concepts have simple explanations. I don't see the argument at all. Either explain the concept as you use it for the first time (which is the usual approach), or including a glossary, if you have a lot of such concepts present.

            That's more financial sector than economic.

            And yet, that financial sector has profound economic consequences. As to Greece, the problem may be difficult to describe, but the solution isn't: get them off the Euro or pay off or absolve enough of their debt that they're no longer hurting. They've already indica

        • Re:Yes, absolutely (Score:4, Informative)

          by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @04:36AM (#40774435) Journal

          The credit default swaps and some other financial instruments are moderately hard to explain

          Stephanie Flanders and Robert Preston have both done a good job in their BBC blogs. And they usually structure their articles with some definitions and background at the top, then the news part after the first subheading. If you're familiar with the background (i.e. you read their last few articles on related subjects) then you can skip the first few paragraphs. I usually now start in the middle, and if I found something I didn't understand go back to the top and read the bit where they explain it. It's a shame that they don't make more use of hypertext: it's pretty trivial to just link jargon terms to a definition on first use...

      • by mathfeel (937008)

        That's a great example of where trying to use plain language does more harm than good. On the other hand 'black hole' rather than 'completely gravitationally collapsed object' probably conveys the concept reasonably well.

        Unfortunately science has a habit of using language, and then finding out it does a bad job of describing something, e.g. atoms, and neural networks, which are, despite the names not indivisible and not actually all that similar to neuron connections in the brain respectively.

        Trying to reduce everything to a 6th grade reading level makes people think problems can actually be explained at a 6th grade level, and they can't. That this has crept into economic discourse has caused us no end of grief in trying to have honest fact based discussions about the current economic crisis for example.

        The difference is as follow: in proper scientific papers and textbooks, the said gravitationally collapsed objects are actually called "blackhole". It is not a term exclusively for layman. Physicists are actually very good at naming important things (unlike in biology and medicine): black hole, dark matter, dark energy, red dwarf, photon, etc. Only when things become hardly distinguishable that physicists give them boring names: muon, tauon, pion, etc. Unless "god" actually can convey some distinguishing ph

        • "Physicists are actually very good at naming important things."

          Up, down, top, bottom, strange, charm - these are called "flavors".
        • by azalin (67640)
          Wasn't it actually a physicist who named it the "god damned" particle and later shortened it because he could really publish it that way? Or is that just a funny anecdote spread for the sake of hilarity?
    • Re:Yes, absolutely (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Tr3vin (1220548) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @09:33PM (#40772143)
      "God particle" comes from Leon Lederman. He wanted to nickname the Higgs boson the "goddamn particle", but was blocked by his editor. So while it is annoying, it did come from a prominent physicist.
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      It was originally the "god damn particle" because it was so elusive but the journal editor suggested it be changed. Then after being shorted it applied a level of unintended importance when described by journalists.

    • Oh Yeah - God Particle is SUCH a wonderful term - pity the journo-drones don't actually understand what they're saying.

      A particle is a piece of a thing.

      So A God Particle would be A PIECE OF GOD.

      Insert mentally-deficient worship here.

      Anyhow, this being /. what everyone here is *really* interested in finding is the Oh God! particle.

      (disclaimer: in the interest of retaining a G rating in this post I have not included the usually obligatory clicky-linky. It's safe to assume that everyone here has a larg
    • First of all see Betteridge's Law of Headlines [wikipedia.org]. Secondly did no one here pay attention in their high school English class. I did I just fell asleep for the grammar portions. One of the things I do remember is one of the first things you should consider when writing is your audience. If you use jargon that your audience won't understand you will alienate your audience instead of engaging them. So unless you're writing for people who already have at least a basic understanding of the subject matter the answer

      • Secondly did no one here pay attention in their high school English class. I did I just fell asleep for the grammar portions.

        You were apparently pretty drowsy during the lecture on punctuation, too.

      • Interesting that Slashdot is a fairly Linear medium, the comments show up in some pseudo-organic manner and whatever butterfly-fluctuations of the order they show up in makes the mood of the thread. Limited by my own frailties, I have long been interested with the early themes of multiple versions of the same text, so that the readers can choose *their own version* of the article. If you want the cheap pop, read the 400 inflammatory words. If you want the details, click "show advanced" etc and read the 4,00

    • The original paper describing the so-called God particle was supposed to be titled "The Goddamn Particle" because of how difficult it was to prove it existed, but the publisher said that Higgs could not use "Goddamn" in the title, and shortened it.

  • Link to article (Score:5, Informative)

    by mt42 (1906902) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @08:09PM (#40771557)
    Link to Nature article http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/487407a [doi.org] (no paywall).
    • First of all, many thanks for the link

      I need to know how to use the DOI system to locate articles that are hidden behind paywall or walled-gardens

      Not that I'm cheapskate or something, but there _are_ a lot of very crucial articles that are not available to the public, and I'm thinking to look into the DOI to dig out those articles

      Please help.

      Thank you again !!
       

      • by mt42 (1906902) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @10:26PM (#40772501)
        I'm afraid the DOI system doesn't actually bypass any paywalls. I was simply noting that this particular article was publicly available (most Nature articles are not). A DOI is just a persistent, unique "digital object identifier". It is now extremely common for academic journal articles to have a DOI assigned to them. The DOI for an article remains constant, and resolution from the DOI to the current URL at which the article can be found is handled by the DOI resolution system. The DOI for this article is 10.1038/487407a, and one way to resolve it is to prefix it with 'http://dx.doi.org/'. If you want to read more about DOIs, there is plenty of information at http://www.doi.org./ [www.doi.org]
        • Come on mods, this is "only" +2? This comment practically ends this entire discussion!

          "Journalists + Jargon: Good or Bad?" Being the article? And everyone got to talking about God Particles?

          We're *Techies*! (Well you are, I am a self-deprecating wannabe, but you get my drift.) The minute anyone goes for a +5 Informative (not Insightful, which cake for humanities types like me to get), but *Informative*, you're gonna get ... wait for it ... Jargon! I had no idea what a DOI was. (Oh no! It's Jargon! We can't

  • by Anrego (830717) * on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @08:11PM (#40771571)

    Depends on the audience that the thing you want to say.

    The first two categories are obvious:
    Complex concept to aimed at people in the field: jargon away
    Simple concept aimed at general audience: minimal jargon, spell out the stuff you do use

    The other two categories are tricky, and in my opinion, in extreme cases, shouldn't be attempted.

    Trying to write too much stuff to a differing audience results in something that is mostly useless for both. We see this all the time in software. People try to write up a design spec / user manual / whatever aimed at everyone from the customers to the project manager to the team lead to the coders who will implement it. All those people require very different information for different purposes and operate with a different vocabulary. You end up with something too technical for the customer, to "clean" for the project manager, and too verbose/lacking of details for the coders.

    Better approach is to just make seperate documents.. you actually end up saving more time and a lot saner in my opinion.. and you produce something useful (which is always nice).

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      The other two categories are tricky, and in my opinion, in extreme cases, shouldn't be attempted.

      Trying to write too much stuff to a differing audience results in something that is mostly useless for both. We see this all the time in software. People try to write up a design spec / user manual / whatever aimed at everyone from the customers to the project manager to the team lead to the coders who will implement it.

      Methinks you are being too specific to "PM/customer/coder in software industry". Let's try a generalization/particularization exercise:
      PM = policy makers - e.g. elected politicians
      customer = beneficiary party - e.g. citizens
      coder = executive/providing party - e.g. govt, juridical system, etc

      Now: which ones should be "spared of jargon" and the society (in its entirety or in parts) can still be "blissfully ignorant but still safe"?

    • by fermion (181285)
      I would also say it depends on what the author understands. A simple example is the word paradigm. For scientists this has a specific meaning. Many writers who use this word have clue of the how to use it in the sense that it compresses communication, rather using it to indicate they have some knowledge of how scientists might speak.

      Vocabulary is an issue in any writing and always depends on the knowledge of the writer and the audience. Jargon is just a instance, almost a trivial instance. In general

  • by Agent.Nihilist (1228864) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @08:11PM (#40771577)

    Should journalists understand what they write?
    I mean really, what possible purpose could understanding the topic of conversation possibly contribute?

    • by Mitreya (579078)

      I mean really, what possible purpose could understanding the topic of conversation possibly contribute?

      Nothing at all, clearly.
      The debate about "truth vigilantism" [nytimes.com] taught me that much.

      • We ask journalists to do quite a bit; some are faithful and truthful, others are not. Sometimes, even those that are trustworthy screw up. They're human, after all.

        But vocabulary, especially jargon, is important and is used to convey deeper meaning-- if the audience can understand it. A target audience of engineers is different than a target audience of salespeople, third graders, and aircraft mechanics (no slime intended).

        Jargon is mandatory to convey meaning to the target audience's understanding. Jargon

    • Yes. It would help. Ever been to court? I mean either to watch a case, or in a legal capacity. It's a general question not directed at you. I have on several occasions, if I hadn't been in the court, then reading the news paper the following day, I wouldn't have known that the article I was reading was even remotely linked to the case I had spent the day watching. It was that far removed from reality.

    • Personally I think scientists and especially computer scientists use too much jargon and double speak. Often to make their papers and documentation sound more scholarly as if it implies they are any smarter. Sure some jargon is needed, but only if regular speak can't provide explanation. And normal language can be used to explain a lot. Hell, English has over 100,000 words. They don't have to keep making up new ones. I think people are more intelligent if they can explain 99% of what they need to without sp
  • by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @08:21PM (#40771655)
    Why is this sort of non-sense continuing to come up? If your audience is highly technical, and knowledgeable in the field then speak the language. If they are not, then bring it down to their level. It's common sense. The real question that should be being asked is whether or not to use non-technical, attention grabbing "buzz" words that add no value and are more likely to distance the reader from and hinder their understanding of the subject being discussed.
    • by icebike (68054) * on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @08:46PM (#40771825)

      Why is this sort of non-sense continuing to come up? If your audience is highly technical, and knowledgeable in the field then speak the language. If they are not, then bring it down to their level. It's common sense.

      There is nothing wrong with educating the reader. In fact, I was under the (apparently mistaken) impression that was the whole point of writing.

      When an author needs to explain parts of some THING or some THEORY, using the terms that the reader is likely to encounter in further reading is of benefit to the reader, and shouldn't be avoided. Nothing wrong with explaining your terms. Nothing wrong with providing a quick glossary/appendix (or links thereto) either.

      No scientist or college course explained to me what Ullage Motors were. Walter Cronkite did.

      • Educating the reader is one thing. Speaking gibberish that leaves the reader confused, or worse (and more common) gives them a false sense of knowledge are entirely different.
        • by PCM2 (4486)

          Educating the reader is one thing. Speaking gibberish that leaves the reader confused, or worse (and more common) gives them a false sense of knowledge are entirely different.

          ...which would be exactly what I would call jargon, and explains succinctly why it is to be avoided.

          Technical terms are not necessarily jargon, but they become so when the text starts to look like it was written in some private argot.

      • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @09:05PM (#40771925)

        I agree, if the terms are introduced judiciously and glossed for those unfamiliar. I often see pseudo-erudite writing for popular audiences using "technical" terms gratuitously, though, sometimes in places where a less-jargony term would have actually been superior. Also, failing to explain the jargon terms that are used. That kind of usage often, imo, serves more as a dialectal marker intending to indicate the writer's background, as opposed to a good-faith communication strategy.

        But Orwell already wrote about all this [wikipedia.org] a while ago.

        • by PCM2 (4486)

          I often see pseudo-erudite writing for popular audiences using "technical" terms gratuitously, though, sometimes in places where a less-jargony term would have actually been superior. Also, failing to explain the jargon terms that are used.

          Right. I think some of the confusion here arises from the fact that, for a guy who's complaining about journalists not using the right terms for things, he seems to have chosen his terms poorly.

          My dictionary defines jargon as, "The specialized language of a trade, profession, or similar group, especially when viewed as difficult to understand by outsiders." As a secondary definition it has, "Nonsensical or incoherent language."

          From those definitions, the real meaning of the term is clear. Words aren't jargo

          • by icebike (68054) *

            Business people who are trying to sound important will never use a simple word when a three-syllable one will do.

            They are simply interfacing with you to build consensus and team cohesion, working toward common goals and meaningful milestones. This requires sharing broad vision and shared sacrifices. By facilitating your gaining context, they hope guide you to greater synergy.

            • by PCM2 (4486)

              They are simply interfacing with you to build consensus and team cohesion, working toward common goals and meaningful milestones. This requires sharing broad vision and shared sacrifices. By facilitating your gaining context, they hope guide you to greater synergy.

              Haha! You are joking with the wrong guy! [profession...erhero.com]

    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @09:22PM (#40772049) Journal

      If your audience is highly technical, and knowledgeable in the field then speak the language. If they are not, then bring it down to their level. It's common sense.

      Not everything can be dumbed down.
      And not everything should be dumbed down.

      Here's a lengthy rant from Richard Feynman when being asked about magnets (how do they work?)
      Watch the first minute, then skip to 3m 56s [youtube.com]
      He more or less says that some questions are too complicated to be explained in terms "that you're more familiar with".

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        He more or less says that some questions are too complicated to be explained in terms "that you're more familiar with".

        If those things are too complicated to be explained in terms that the listener is familiar with, then the concept is probably not of any importance to the listener to start with. And if the listener isn't familiar with your terms, you're going to have to bring him up to speed before you can slap all the technical words on him anyway.

        "Why do magnets work" doesn't need a full quantum mechanical lecture with Maxwell's equations and tensors and Feynman diagrams and chromodynamics tossed on for good measure to

        • by arth1 (260657)

          "Why do magnets work" doesn't need a full quantum mechanical lecture with Maxwell's equations and tensors and Feynman diagrams and chromodynamics tossed on for good measure to get the point across to a lay audience who might ask that question. Eleven dimensional string theory, hypothetical subatomic particles carrying the "field"? To one of his advanced physics classes, yes. To Joe Sixpack, no.

          But that wasn't the question in the parent post. The question was "how do magnets work", and that can easily be answered in a dumbed down way: they push and they pull. More questions can give better answers. And the better the questions, the better the answers can be. For a five year old or redneck, 'they push and pull each other, and a few metals like iron and some other substances" is likely good enough.

          The best way to play the toddler "why"-game is to never answer, but wait for a better question.

    • It can be difficult. Jargon is often well defined only within a particular field, and can mean something entirely different in another field, or, more typically, nothing at all. Judicious use of jargon makes sense though.

      "I instrumented and characterized a high speed buffer as part of the silicon validation strategy" - This is a sentence people would use at my job, and while many of the words are approachable to the uninitiated, it sounds awkward and some of the words are near fits that don't mean what the

    • If your audience is highly technical, and knowledgeable in the field then speak the language. If they are not, then bring it down to their level.

      The problem is that in the process of trying to "bring it down to their level," writers often change the meaning of what they're saying enough that it's actually wrong. No one should use jargon needlessly (a rule which applies as much to writing for a technically knowledgeable audience as for the general public, BTW) but at some point we need to be willing to say to the readers, essentially, "If you're afraid of learning the correct vocabulary to describe the subject of the story, then it probably isn't fo

  • by Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @08:27PM (#40771701)

    If you don't have relevant qualifications, credit and refer to someone who does. Quote them explaining what the jargon means. It's the most honest way of saying 'I don't know what it means exactly, but I took the time to find someone who does'.

    It's not like we're filthy primitives who live in caves and don't know how to hyperlink.

    • +1 as per the above

      The issue is that journo-droids spend SO MUCH TIME dumbing-down their story for "the unwashed barely literate masses" that instead of actually INFORMING them they're just spouting mindless rubbish which ONLY VAGUELY relates to the actual issue/story at hand.

      That, my friend, is nothing more than media-hype!

      UNFORTUNATELY the dictionary-entry for 'journalism" describes *exactly* this problem.

      journalism [jur-nl-iz-uhm] Show IPA noun 1. the occupation of reporting, writing, editing, photographing, or broadcasting news or of conducting any news organization as a business. 2. press1 ( def. 31 ) . 3. a course of study preparing students for careers in reporting, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines. 4. writing that reflects superficial thought and research, a popular slant, and hurried composition, conceived of as exemplifying topical newspaper or popular magazine writing as distinguished from scholarly writing: He calls himself a historian, but his books are mere journalism.

      Nothing there at all about "informing" or "educating", it's nothing more than "make shit up and y

  • by RalfM (10406) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @08:44PM (#40771815) Homepage

    There was a BBC article by Will Self on this recently also.

    In defence of obscure words [bbc.co.uk]

    Ralf

  • If you're writing for Nature, yes, you should use scientific jargon. Your audience are scientists, or those interested enough in science to buy Nature. Maybe include a glossary, or a quick definition in an aside, but your audience is looking for technical details, not a quick summary.

    If you're writing for the Times, don't. Your audience doesn't care about the ins-and-outs, they want to hear about practical effects.

    I did one single subject in Journalism at university almost ten years ago and I know this. Thi

  • Unnecessary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chemisor (97276) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @08:51PM (#40771843)

    How about we not create so much unnecessary jargon in the first place? Is it really necessary to say "Mr.Smith, you have a serious condition called 'pneumothorax'", followed by an explanation when you could simply say "Mr.Smith, your lung has collapsed."? If there already is a simple descriptive term that adequately expresses what you wish to say, stop inventing argot just so you can look smart. Yes, people tend to think you are smart when you speak of things they don't understand. When you take advantage of that, you're just being a pompous jerk.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      How about we not create so much unnecessary jargon in the first place? Is it really necessary to say "Mr.Smith, you have a serious condition called 'pneumothorax'", followed by an explanation when you could simply say "Mr.Smith, your lung has collapsed."?

      the problem there isn't the existence of jargon, but its misuse. It can be exchanged between professionals, and the professionals can and should use plain speech when speaking to laymen.

    • Re:Unnecessary (Score:5, Informative)

      by Johann Lau (1040920) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @09:49PM (#40772255) Homepage Journal

      Just because you don't understand it doesn't make it unnecessary.

      "Pneumothorax: accumulation of air in the chest leading to collapse of the lung"

      "leading to" != "is".

      Also, I kinda doubt a doctor talking to a patient uses "big words" to show they're smart, since at that point that usually is established. It is simply the more correct term. Like you say "browser" when talking to someone else, instead of "the window in which websites show up". You say browser, and make sure they know what you mean by explaining what it is. But you don't say something that's technically bullshit, just to appease them.

      Also, some patients actually prefer not having their diagnosis watered down for them. Them being adults and all that. If that's not you, why not shut the fuck up? If you don't understand what they're saying and can't be arsed to learn, just tell them "I'm too dumb or lazy too understand, just do your thing please". And don't forget to say thank you, either, when they fixed your boo-boo.

      stop inventing argot just so you can look smart

      Argot? Bullshit. You're the conspirator in this case, by being proud of being ignorant.

    • Re:Unnecessary (Score:4, Informative)

      by PCM2 (4486) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @10:05PM (#40772367) Homepage

      Is it really necessary to say "Mr.Smith, you have a serious condition called 'pneumothorax'", followed by an explanation when you could simply say "Mr.Smith, your lung has collapsed."? If there already is a simple descriptive term that adequately expresses what you wish to say, stop inventing argot just so you can look smart.

      Actually, I'm pretty sure they give diseases specific names so that they can match the cure to the disease. You might not really need to know that you have pneumothorax, but your doctors, nurses, and pharmacists do.

      Saying "your lung collapsed" is not sufficient. That's like diagnosing you with "an infection." It might be all you care to know, but that much knowledge isn't enough to get you cured.

      P.S. Pneumothorax doesn't mean you have a collapsed lung.

      • by Guppy (12314)

        P.S. Pneumothorax doesn't mean you have a collapsed lung.

        Absolutely correct, it refers to air in the pleural cavity (which would normally be not so much a cavity, as more of a "potential space").

        In explaining a medical condition to a layman, I would have no problem telling him he had collapsed lung. But if I were to read "collapsed lung" in some de-jargonized medical record, I would have no idea if the writer meant Atelectasis [wikipedia.org] instead.

    • by godrik (1287354)

      "Is it really necessary to say "Mr.Smith, you have a serious condition called 'pneumothorax'", followed by an explanation when you could simply say "Mr.Smith, your lung has collapsed."? "

      I think it is important for a specialist to give you the actually name of your disease. You might see another doctor later that will be happy to know the actual name of the disease. Or you might be interested in knowing the disease you have. Or you might actually know what pneumothorax is (which I don't). Here is a case whe

    • Re:Unnecessary (Score:4, Insightful)

      by artor3 (1344997) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @10:57PM (#40772727)

      Stop reveling in your ignorance. Technical terms exist to differentiate between similar ideas that have important differences. That you don't know what those differences are does not mean that they're not important.

  • because they are, for the most part, barely literate.

  • by pegasustonans (589396) on Wednesday July 25, 2012 @09:43PM (#40772211)

    Readership of large magazines and newspapers declined rather drastically since the Second World War.

    In recent years, large media organizations are often using even simpler language than in previous decades.

    So, I have to ask, while there will always be a small segment of the population with the desire to both be 'well-informed' and the discipline necessary to attain that goal, how are you going to bridge the gap between this small audience and the far larger one which primarily seeks non-educational entertainment?

    While journalism with solid evidence and sophisticated language is an excellent ideal and a noble goal, the reality of a population with minimal desire to understand issues on a deeper level constrains the business side of things.

    While the news media is partially to blame for the situation where many people are minimally educated and willfully ignorant, our education system, politics and cultural values all play a part as well. Are we going to change all of these facets of our contemporary society in order to make journalism with sophisticated language successful, and, if so, how would we go about doing so pragmatically?

    • by dbIII (701233)
      Sometime around Reagan's term there was a proposal to save money in depressed areas by only teaching a vastly reduced sort of pidgin English called Ebonics. It appears this was seen as racist so it was applied across the board and all you poor sods ended up with an education inferior to what you'd get in Nigeria.

      So that's an exaggeration, but sadly it's only a slight one, and not very fair on Nigeria where standards have been improving.

      A consequence of education cuts in the USA and other parts of the wes
      • I haven't met many who think the height of language is a spelling bee, but I agree there's definitely a more effective way to educate children than methods currently widespread in certain school districts.

        The question, of course, is exactly how to go about implementing and monitoring such a method given the current cultural and political environment.

        • by dbIII (701233)

          I haven't met many who think the height of language is a spelling bee

          For a few years this site seemed to be full of them. One loser even tried to correct me when I wrote "aluminium" instead of staying on topic.

  • I would say people should write with their intended audience in mind, but then somewhere along the line someone invented legalese and ruined everything for everybody, because the intended audience of that is no living thing.

    What irks me though, is people that fish for as many big words as they can to try to sound clever, even when talking about things that should be simple. If you can't keep it straightforward, then you are just talking for your own benefit and nobody elses...

    In summary, use jargon if you h

  • At least as far as it relates to scientific jargon, every specialized field in science has it's own distinct jargon, that's not compatible with the jargon from any other scientific field, even when you have objects, methods, and traits that cross disciplines. Scientific journalists, unless they specialize in one very specific field should be smart enough to notice this. That's why they're hostile towards jargon. If the jargon was standard across all scientific fields, journalists would use more of it; becau
  • Hell, I would be happy if they would stop using "busted" instead of "broken".
    • by arth1 (260657)

      Hell, I would be happy if they would stop using "busted" instead of "broken".

      I'd vote for cutting down on the -ize words.
      Ruggedized is a word, but most of the time it's used as a bad substitute for rugged.
      Similar for utilized and used. By all means, use utilized, but not when you mean use.
      Burglarized is another word that's almost always used incorrectly. If you are systematically being targeted by burglars, or you get trained to become one, you are burglarized. If your house gets broken into and items stolen, you've been burgled.

      Oh, and "refactoring". It doesn't mean what most p

  • by Greyfox (87712)
    But they should just randomly make some up in stories because, really, who's going to call them on it? If it sounds real enough, no one will know! [xs4all.nl]
  • English has unusually broad origins: Anglo-Saxon, Norman French, Latin, and Greek. And for no good reason. It's entirely an artifact of its political history.

    So, there is a lot of redundancy. Several words that mean the same thing yet someone says they all have different shades of meaning. Sometime true, like the difference between imply and infer. Other times, they are just all the same word, one Anglo-Saxon, one Latin, one Greek. It's like importing the Spanish word for dog, perro, and using dog sometimes

  • by dark grep (766587) on Thursday July 26, 2012 @01:02AM (#40773409)

    It depends on the audience. A physics review journal or a medical publication for doctors is going to be very unappealing if it's written in laymans terms. On the other hand magazines like New Scientist and Scientific American do a pretty good job of making scientific news accessible to everyone, and take the effort to explain jargon terms when used.

    OTH, IMHO, I LMAO at the irony of where journalism is heading in general. DUCY?

  • Amusingly, the Associated Press manual of style says to avoid jargon in news stories. They make one amusing exception: sports stories. Sports fans are expected to understand that jargon.

    Read the Economist, which discusses subjects of considerable complexity with less financial jargon than Mad Money. They recently published one of the best explanations of the confirmation of the Higgs boson seen in the popular press. In inimitable Economist style, they point out that the neutron, discovered in 1932, was t

  • or hover bubbles, whatever. Why are we having 20th century arguments?

  • While we're on the subject of jargon I wish to make a small detour to the realms of physics and reality.
    First of all, one sends an electric current through a device/circuit/... not a voltage! Seeing this wrong just annoys me greatly. Another one is "the god particle", How does defining mass turn something into a god? Sure, it sounds far more spectacular but it's just plain wrong from a logical point of view. Another problem is the rampant usage of acronyms. It seems every invention and field of science the

Simplicity does not precede complexity, but follows it.

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