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Circling back to the tech industry’s jargon problem

Unicorn selfie
Reuters/Mike Blake
Unicorns, like your words, are mythological.
By Simone Stolzoff
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

First, a confession: I speak tech.

I know, it’s hard to believe a writer like me would be able to develop some core competencies in a different vertical. Alas, it’s true. Before I became a journalist, I touched base with the best of them. I calculated CAC with growth hackers and whiskey Friday-ed with SEO experts.

At age 24, I was a senior content strategist—still not sure what that means. At 25, I was a director of business development—pretty sure no one knows what that means. But if there’s anything more hollow than the tech industry’s job titles, it’s the industry’s jargon.

Ladies and gentlemen of Silicon Valley, Beach, Alley, and Forest: It’s time to acquifire your buzzwords. Here are three tips to help you course-correct faster than you can say “post-money valuation.”

Let’s start with some low-hanging fruit

Techies frequently speak to each other like seven-year-olds talking in pig Latin. They think they’re clever, but they usually sound ridiculous to the outside world. Take, for example, a recent pitch I received from a new crypto-based social network:

The universal, decentralized solution for content creators works flawlessly together with peer-to-peer incentives, monetization and a free-speech foundation to amplify organic reach and transparency on the Ethereum blockchain leveraging smart contract technology.

Stop wasting time on meaningless adjectives and adverbs (“works flawlessly together with X” is no more meaningful, than “works with X”). Remember, you’re not getting paid by the syllable, nor the word. A price point is a price. A brain dump is a meeting. Economize your language and you can optimize your brain power for the big decisions.

Drop the balls

If I weren’t a baseball fan, there’d be so many curveballs coming out of left field, it’d be impossible to get a win. Most sports references are cliché Americanisms that can alienate your coworkers and make you sound like a douche.

Spell it out

If I had a nickel for every time I heard “MVP” or “CLV” in an all-hands meeting, I’d have enough ARR to bootstrap my SMB. I know, it sounds impressive to flaunt your startup slang, but a business meeting shouldn’t require a translation sheet.

I wouldn’t be writing this if I weren’t already dogfooding it myself. But I don’t always have the bandwidth to translate your tech speak into English. Please iterate on your diction and sunset your slang.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

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