If time is your enemy, then so is jargon

26 February 2015 -


Niche terminology has its place, but should never be allowed to dominate a conversation, argues a marketing specialist

Nigel Crunden

It is an obvious point often overlooked, but common sense should prevail when it comes to workplace communication.

Let’s face it: jargon – and phrases specific to a particular process or industry – are a natural aspect of managing any operation.


However, there is a fine line between using such terms appropriately, and overusing them in a bid to sound more informed – and procurement is certainly in the firing line when it comes to this. Where a contract has been put out to tender, this kind of process-specific terminology has the potential to delay applications from new suppliers, as it takes time to decipher.

Internal processes can become littered with jargon if unchecked – so it’s important to ensure it isn’t overused.

In many cases, this means simplifying the terminology. In turn, that will drive more efficient working, as the time taken to decipher complicated terms gets put to better use.

Here is a selection of overwrought phrases that may ring a few bells…

“Added value” Simply refers to any additional advantages a product or service has that are over and above the core benefits provided.

“Aggregation” A collective group of companies that combine their buying power so they can enjoy discounts or specific benefits that come as a result of buying in bulk.

“Synergy” The cooperation of two or more organisations that occurs in a way that enables them to align shared values and direction.

“Potentialities” Ideas that are still to be implemented that look promising in terms of their commercial potential.

“Pathfinder” An individual who identifies a new commercial opportunity and helps persuade a department or organisation of its validity.

Common phrases like those are part and parcel of day-to-day practice within procurement and supply-chain circles. But that list only illuminates the tip of the iceberg.

Some specialists choose to go even further and “jargonise” when there is no need.

This can be a risky move: although there are common words and phrases used by all, there is a danger that there will be a mismatch between specific terminology used by the buyer and supplier respectively.

Surely it is better to reach a consensus about what certain terms mean (especially when highly technical or in relation to an important process), so that the time taken to understand them can be spent on ensuring that targets have been met and customer needs satisfied.

Nigel Crunden is business-to-business marketing specialist at Office Depot UK & Ireland

For more thoughts about expressing yourself clearly in tenders – in the Queen’s English – sign up to this CMI seminar.

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