Join Judy Steiner-Williams for an in-depth discussion in this video Avoid technobabble and legalese, part of Writing in Plain English.
- As we discuss Technobabble, sometimes called technospeak and legalese, they may sound a lot like the other categories we've examined. And they are. Just two more ways to try to sound pompous rather than to use plain English. Technobabble doesn't have to be connected to computer technology, even though computer programmers and coders know and use a lot of technobabble. It can be any area that has technical or scientific details. Star Trek was known for using technobabble.
The area of technology is, however, the first thing that comes to my mind, probably because I'm not a techie person. I can do the basics, but if something goes wrong, I probably don't know how to fix the problem so I use the Ask the Experts feature at Hewitts University Instructional Technology Services a lot of questions. Remember the PICNIC acronym from another lesson? Problem In Chair Not In Computer. That's probably written in my file. When that techie person is trying to help me, I dread the words, "It's really easy.
"All you have to do is..." and everything after that becomes technobabble to me. Technobabble uses specialized technical terms or technical jargon, maybe to show a high level of understanding, or maybe because they really think everyone understands the terms since the words are common in their field of expertise. Psychobabble, a word coined in the seventies for meaningless words used in psychiatry or psychotherapy, was probably the forerunner of technobabble. A random technobabble generator is available at this website.
These are three of the phrases I just generated at that site. Phrased neutrino discriminator. Ambient system coupling. Magnetic E-M signal. Any idea what they mean? Of course not. They're not intended to mean anything. But the person using them sounds so knowledgeable. Here are portions of the opening of chapter 4.2 of a free, online textbook on introductory programming, Introduction to Programming Using Java, Seventh Edition.
The author, David Eck, tells me that the book is directly aimed toward beginning programmers. If the audience has some basic programming knowledge before deciding to become a programmer, rather than being a total novice, then the technical words' meaning may already be understood. I stop at the second word, subroutine. I am in awe of computer programmers. They can always find and fix that broken link that's making my computer not do what I want it to do, but it all sounds like technobabble to me.
Now what about legalese? Or, I guess we could call it legalbabble. It's the formal and technical language of legal documents and it's often hard to understand. And by this time in the course, you probably won't be surprised to know that a random, legal gibberish generator is available. Here's the description of it: This legal gibberish generator uses a sophisticated software algorithm to create random content that reads like a real contract, but it's guaranteed to make no sense.
Here's an example. Well, that's one site that certainly does what it guarantees. Those 120 words make no sense to me. All babbling should be avoided. It's hard to read, confusing and meaningless, and a complete waste of the reader's time. I located a company called Tech No Babble. Sounds like a plain English technical company I might understand.
If you can write in plain English, you can save time, save money, and save face in communications. Start watching to learn how to make your writing more "plain": stronger, clearer, and more concise.
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- Explain how to make your writing clear, concise, and straightforward.
- Recognize the average reading level for most audiences.
- Identify commonly overused words.
- Recognize how strong verbs can help avoid passive writing.
- Explore the benefits of deleting extra words.
- Define “weasel words.”