Dealing with Jargon

5 May

Right now, I am trying to construct a post about why CopyCat (CC) does not look like Rainbow, despite being a clone.  If I was doing it as a paper, it would have a title like “Phenotype differences in coat color in cloned female cats.”  It would be filled with details about x chromosome switching and genetic expression.  Are your eyes rolling into the back of your head yet?  And that is just a mild example of what things written in scientific journals can look like.

Jargon is important.  It helps makes things easier when you are talking to your peers about a subject where you both share knowledge.  When you are talking to someone who is outside that field, it will make their heads spin.  Knowing your audience is key to knowing how and where to use jargon.  When it comes to blogging, your audience becomes harder to know.  For my personal blog, I know that the majority of my audience is made up of my friends.  Since I know them fairly well, I know what to explain in detail and when I can just use jargon.  For the Divas’ blog, I assume that the audience is wider, which would require more explanation and less jargon.

You might hear some people call this “dumbing down.”  I really dislike that term.  I do not think people are stupid and I do not think I have to make science dumber for people to understand it.  Jargon in the sciences developed so that difficult and complicated subjects can be discussed without having to spend so much time describing each little thing every time.

The challenge for a science blogger is to find the right balance between overloading your audience and gutting the topic you are trying to explain. It is a struggle but I hope I manage to properly explain topics in a way that makes them nearly as interesting to me as to other people.  If nothing else, the struggle to find the balance keeps things interesting.


3 Responses to “Dealing with Jargon”

  1. Tami May 6, 2011 at 7:41 am #

    I wish more fantasy authors held that particular opinion.

    SURE, maybe Mr. Author spent a decade worldbuilding and he’s developed not only an entire new world, but every species within it and new magical terms besideswhich.

    When the first page reads like: “Ethnol Ter’kettlewyn steadied his rocknol thromboid and bore down on the slavering solvannawich without so much as a flinch. The fingers of his right hand curved into the familiar Treeslecknar charm and a bolt of pure pannawinko power shot down his forearm, through the sysselfruss chamber of the thromboid, and was expelled as a mighty, glowing ball of skrimshank power. The solvannawich never stood a chance.”

    I’m lost. Utterly gone. Granted, that’s an excessive example, but I’ve read things almost as bad. What’s really upsetting is that it might have been a really great story, but I can’t see it for the distracting shapes of the words.

    I tip my hat to you, writer of any kind who recognizes jargon for what it is, and evaluates its use against the audience for which you intend to write it. *salute*

  2. Hillary May 6, 2011 at 7:58 am #

    Seconded. Thirded. And Fourthed.

    Welcome to why I dislike most fantasy. I want something remotely relatable. If you want to world build, I am ALL FOR IT, but do it with language I can embrace. I don’t mind a few things tossed at me here and there – learning as we go type thing – but when it’s all on one page and completely beyond the scope of something I can wrap my mind around, I walk.

  3. Itanya Blade May 6, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    Some authors get caught up in the thrill of creation and forget that once you write for other people, you have to consider them as well. Otherwise you lose your audience.

    With a blog, that may just mean a loss of readers, but when you are writing in the expectation of making money, you take a hit to the pocketbook (or risk losing a job).

    A good genre artist will draw readers into their world bit by bit, so by the end the reader no longer needs all the little hints and tricks that are part of a writer’s tool box.

    Those that do not do that will remain enclosed in their genre at best.

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