Minimize computer jargon

Jargon, acronyms, and abbreviations are proliferating with the digital age of electronic communication. Language is always changing, and we anticipate that with time many of these terms will become widely accepted. For now, be conservative. Used excessively with an audience that is unfamiliar with it, computer jargon can easily come across as pretentious.

Many new compound words pertaining to technology have not yet found their way into standard dictionaries. How should they be punctuated? The iconoclastic approach of computer manual writers seems to be "when in doubt, close it up," and they are the ones introducing new terminology and coining new meanings. Thus these new compound words commonly appear without hyphenation. Examples include desktop, download, email, keyword, online, toolbar, website, wildcard, and workstation.

Exercise 6.1. Jargon

A. Find a substitute for the following pretentious words and phrases.


a sufficient number of


has the capability of


produced an inhibitory effect


on a theoretical level


on a regular basis

B. What do the following sentences literally mean? What did the author intend?


The etiology of this disease is puzzling.


Histopathology stages were based on 10 dogs.


The necrology confirmed the intestinal occlusions.


Reword these sentences to remove jargon and extra words.


The bovine was postoperatively traumatized by a defective electrified fencing enclosure, necessitating euthanatization.


Positionize the slide carefully to visualize the quite unique spatial configurations with a high degree of accuracy.


It is the author's opinion that it is not an unjustifiable assumption that this chemotherapeutic agent has the capability of significantly ameliorating and attenuating the symptomology of the disease process.

Use bias-free, inclusive language

Words, like Nature, half reveal And half conceal the Soul within.

- Alfred, Lord Tennyson ("In memoriam A.H.H.," 1850)

Nowadays, people have become much more aware of the ways in which language shapes our thinking. Many thoughtful discussions of the topic have appeared, and many guidelines have been developed; for examples, see Schwartz et al. (1995), Schaie (1993), and Maggio (1991, 1997).

To avoid charges of prejudice and insensitivity, language and visual aids must be accurate, clear, and free from bias. Just as you have learned to check what you write for spelling and grammar, practice reading over your work for bias. Cultivate at least three kinds of awareness: (1) noting potential bias in the kinds of observations and characterization being made; (2) recognizing the impact of various value-laden terms; and (3) being sensitive to certain biases that are inherent in the structure of the English language.

It is a writer's job to maintain the audience's willingness to go on reading the document. Readers who are offended are likely to stop reading. Test your writing for implied or irrelevant evaluations on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, racial or ethnic group, disability, or age. Try substituting your own group for the one being discussed or imagining you are a member of the group you are discussing. If you feel excluded or offended, the material needs revision. Another suggestion is to ask people from that group to read your material and give you candid feedback.

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