It seems a logical and obvious piece of advice, and not one I'd given much additional thought to, until asked the question, "what do you mean by jargon?" My immediate answer was "terms used exclusively within your industry that wouldn't be understood by people outside of it."
But over the last few weeks I've begun to question my own answer.
Think about the number of technical terms that are now part of everyday conversation - 'download,' 'upgrade,' etc. Do they still count as computer industry jargon?
What started me down this line of thought was working on my current book project about Wikis. While at the recent STC Summit in Dallas I used the word "wiki" without a second thought. It's a word well understood in that community, and I guess it could be considered industry jargon.
But outside of that group I find that when I talk about my book to a much broader audience there is a high percentage of people who know what a wiki is and can explain it quite succinctly. There are also still a sizable proportion who give me a blank stare until I say 'Wikipedia." A few days ago a writer friend of mine posted on his blog that he had being doing some research on "the wiki." He, of course, meant he had been using Wikipedia, just one (extreme) example of a wiki implementation.
But his use of a generic term for the technology made me wonder, is the word wiki moving away from jargon to becoming mainstream. If it is - what does this mean for professional communicators trying to avoid the use of jargon. Is what we consider jargon a label that is only proportional to the size of the community that accepts and understands a specific definition of a word? The smaller the community, the higher a word's potential "jargon" rating?