The Inaccessibility of Jargon

Let’s face it — when you work in a corporate environment, you’re exposed to a ridiculous amount of corporate jargon. Sometimes, it’s in the form of acronyms. Other times, it’s slang terms developed in the business world.

Example: “Let’s talk offline.”
Example: “We’ll have a go/no-go meeting.”

As easy a target as it is, I’m not about to go into the general absurdity of office lingo and corporate speak — I’ll leave that to great sites like Corporate Trash.

“Dovetailing” (there’s another one) with jargon catchphrases are excessive acronyms. I suppose it’s easier to speak with fewer words by making everything an acronym, but it’s painful to anybody on the outside trying to decipher the code.

Regardless to how easier it makes things to talk in such ways internally, it poses a user experience and accessibility problem if you litter your outward-facing web site with them.

Let’s start with acronyms. While some like FYI (for your information) are reasonably well-known, others may not be. Don’t assume that the outside world is on to all your shortcuts. Be sure to spell them out or use the <acronym> or <abbr> tag. Most screen reader devices read aloud the associated title tag, such as <acronym title=”For Your Information”>FYI</acronym>. In the browser, a dotted line appears under the item within the acronym or abbr tag, and mousing over will reveal the full description.

There seem to be different schools of thought as to if you need to use these tags on every single acronym, even if it’s used multiple times. On the one hand, only using the tag in the first instance may pose a problem if someone skips around the content and misses that initial explanation.

On the other hand, using the tag ten times for the same acronym seems a bit excessive too, especially if it’s a long one, like CAPTCHA.

Not sure where I stand on the issue, I tend to just use the acronym tag in all cases, even multiple times with the same acronym. Whatever you do, just make sure that when you need to use acronyms, there’s an explanation of what they stand for.

If the acronym is one your company made up for some sort of internal process, and basically nobody in the outside world would understand it without a frame of reference (like the initials for a department), just spell it out in your web site content. If they work for you or do business with you, they’ll learn the acronyms when it makes sense.

As for using corporate jargon and catchphrases in your content on an outward-facing web site? I say skip it. People, whether they are disabled or not, are coming to your site to either make purchases or learn more about you. Just give them concise, impactful, clear content.

Be direct.  Save the cute expressions, sports metaphors, or whatever else for your meetings…or be merciful, and stop them altogether.

2 thoughts on “The Inaccessibility of Jargon

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