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Excessive Jargon and Legalese

One of my biggest personal gripes is the use of excessive jargon when creating privacy policies. It can be readily apparent when a notice or policy, or even a law, is written by a privacy or legal professional but not written for the audience it targets. However, it is possible to create a more effective end product using simpler language.

First, let me say that legalese is jargon, however, it is a niche form of it. Legalese or the language used in contracts or legal documents is written that way to very specifically and meticulously define the scope and purpose of the document. It seeks to ensure that a legal document can be interpreted in only the desired manner. Jargon, for the purpose of this blog, is unnecessarily technical language that confuses rather than informs.

The best example of jargon that I use is the theoretical marketing document presented to potential customers. Imagine reading the following:

“We are the leading provider of synergistic business solutions to fortune 50 organizations throughout the international stage.”

Ask yourself now, what does this mean? The above essentially translates to “we do business stuff” and says very little despite using large words. This is the problem of jargon. It says very little by saying too much or being too verbose. Your audience wants to know what you do, so you need to be direct and deliberate in how you speak to them.

A great example of where and how to avoid jargon is the privacy notice. This document is targeted at your customers who most are likely not privacy professionals. When you write sections such as “what personal information we collect” or “Who we share information with” you would avoid using specific technical terminology. Instead, you would write the information in a plain and direct way, such as saying “we share your data with companies to make sure ordered products or services are delivered efficiently.” This is direct, summarizes what you are doing, and gets the point across to the user without obfuscating important information.

You could also consider a more layered approach, which begins with a more simplified notice that allows individuals to click through to a more expanded version. Overall, you are making sure your notice, or any other document is written so that your audience can understand it. Most importantly, avoid jargon and keep your documents readable.