Learning the Jargon

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Oftentimes in freelance writing we wind up having to cover an industry with which we only have a passing familiarity. You want to do as much research as possible but, if you ever get stuck with an assignment that’s a little out of your realm of expertise and you don’t have the time to become an expert, here’s one weird trick to wrap your head around the industry quickly:

Learn the Jargon

Learning the jargon, whether you’re taking on your first job as a medical writer or filling out a catalog for hot rod restoration enthusiasts, learning a few industry buzzwords will help you in two ways:

1. You’ll learn the trade more quickly

When you know what an ambu-bag is, you won’t be so lost when writing a piece on medical equipment. When you do your research, you’ll know what that word means and, from context, you’ll more easily pick up on the terms that you’re not familiar with.

2. You’ll sound like an expert

Novelist Joe R. Lansdale has been celebrated for his knack for regional Texan dialects. If you’ve been around the Lone Star State, you’ll know whether his characters are from Austin, San Antonio, or South Texas by their slang alone. He advises that writers not bend over backwards trying to pack a character’s dialogue with as much regional slang as possible, but to pick out a few key phrases and sayings that they like and just toss them in there. The same goes for industry writing. Calling it the “stern” instead of the “back of the ship” will go a long way towards earning trust from readers in the boating community.

A quick way to familiarize yourself with the industry jargon: find a glossary pertaining to whatever you’re writing about, skim it for any words and phrases that catch your eye, and keep it open so that you can refer to it whenever you need a quick reference.

If you want to keep writing on any given industry, you would do well to study it in your off time. You might even become an expert on it, the first name clients think of when looking for a writer on that subject. But, if you don’t have time to learn the industry top to bottom just yet, learning a few key words and phrases will make both the research and the actual writing that much easier.

When Gilbert S isn’t researching and writing about something he hadn’t even heard of the day prior, you can find him drawing or taking in some Netflix with his wife and two cats in New Mexico.


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