Is jargon useful or ridiculous?

The Winfield Rock Report Overcoming the Legal and Contractual Barriers of BIM reported that BIM aficionados expressed ‘sympathy for lawyers having to wade through endless jargon’.

Te he he!

For once the boot is on the other foot. I spend my life helping professionals overcome jargon: writing jargon-free contracts, training on and translating construction contract jargon, and delivering effective writing workshops to delete the jargon in business communication.

Three stages of jargon

Jargon tends to go through three stages (adapted from this article):

  1. Tech-speak: abbreviations and acronyms are created by the users for other users to speed up conversations, reports and processes. It builds a tribe of those in the know, but clarity is the main driver behind its use. When eg BIM Level 2 is mentioned, the Winfield Rock Report notes that no two experts defined it in the same way.
  2. The dark side: now the jargon becomes a barrier to outsiders. Understanding all these terms marks you out as an elite member of an exclusive club: one example of which is the BIM club.
  3. Object of ridicule: those who don’t understand the jargon make light of the acronyms as a defence mechanism to hide their lack of understanding. Sometimes refusing to join in at all, other times creating their own counter-culture terms (like NEC4 BIM terms?).

What should we do?

My hope is that as BIM matures, the acronyms will decrease and be replaced by universally understood terms with widely-accepted and consistent meanings.  However, until then we do need to make sure that everyone understands (and no-one feels like they are speaking a different language).

Until then, I’ll be a CAD, take AIM and stick my MPTD up your BIM.

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