Organizational culture and discourse community also affect word choice. Engineers, for
instance, may define “failure” differently than people outside of the field. But few if any writers
will communicate only with internal audiences. Therefore, it’s critical for students to understand
that how the audience perceives the words they use is critical in the writing process, not simply
the words privileged by them or their organization.
Teaching Tip: Have students bring to class examples of correspondence—perhaps
sales letters or government publications—whose language seems open to
interpretation. What meaning did the student get from specific passages where the
language seems interpretable? Is this the same meaning that others in the room get?
What language alternatives could be used to make the correspondence more clear?
In-Class Exercise: Assign students to locate both descriptive and prescriptive
dictionaries. Have them look up common words, such as verbal, imply, and bad.
How do the definitions differ? Which definitions seem most appropriate? Why?
Does one dictionary seem to do a better job than another? Why or why not? Have
students discuss the implications of privileging one type of dictionary over the other.
Is it OK to use jargon? LO 15-4
If it’s essential.
Jargon that may be acceptable in business communication includes technical language
common to a field and business slang. In general, writers should use a plain English equivalent
where possible; however, writers may want to use jargon in documents where it establishes
credibility, such as in a job application letter or a report to a highly technical audience.
Businessese is arcane or dated language that should be avoided.
Teaching Tip: Use PP 15-12 to introduce the concept
of jargon. Then ask students to brainstorm words and
phrases common to business. Ask them to define these
phrases, where possible. Finally, have students share
which words and phrases are technical language,
business slang, and businessese. Create a master list
for students to use throughout the quarter.
In-Class Exercise: Use Appendix 15-A to have students identify words and phrases
that may not be acceptable. (The letter example is purposefully outdated to help
students more easily spot trite phrases.) Which are forms of technical language?
Business slang? Businessese? If words or phrases are unacceptable, what words
could be used to replace them?
© 2014 by McGraw-Hill Education. This is proprietary material solely for authorized instructor use. Not authorized for sale or distribution in any
manner. This document may not be copied, scanned, duplicated, forwarded, distributed, or posted on a website, in whole or part.