I became confused by comments to my answer insisting that Technical writing is jargon using incorrect English words.

I also looked through definitions of "prepend" in internet, all with inserted derogatory remarks, even in IT-specialized dictionaries, like 'jargon' and:

Is Technical Writing jargon or writing-style and the branch of correctly used English?
Would I better avoid to refer to it as English at all while copywriting (or copylefting) in it?

If I write using the words which are not English WORDS, do I write in English?


I've read many definitions of copywriting but basically it is to poularize a product or a point of view to a most general (including illiterate) reader. The term Copywriting "refers to writing in the sense of creating non-technical material". Where is here a "jargon is nearly impossible for the average person to decipher", given by all answers, I wonder?

Some of jargon definitions:

What is unclear in "prepend" and to whom?
Why isn't busyness letter or step-by-step instructions a formal writing?

Jargon is not necessarily incorrect words. I can speak a few jargons with completely correct words engagement which will be clear only to representatives of certain groups. It is the matter of enagaging accent, distinctiveness, allusions, metaphors, rare citations or facts and idioms

Should it be be understood that insulting obscenities known to everybody are not jargon and full members of "correct" English printed in all dictionaries, exposable in printed books, screened popular movies? but understandable "technical" ubiquitous words are out?

Jargon, when referring to computers, is the usage of words by a particular group, profession, or culture, especially when the words and phrases are not understood or used by other people. For instance, words like Adware and Spyware are considered Jargon. Many computer related acronyms, such as CPU (another name for computer processor) and RAM (another name for memory), are also considered Jargon terms

Do you know anybody who:
- who does NOT know the words RAM or CPU?
- who knows, without consulting with dictionaries, all "correct" words of a language?

Related question:

The origin of confusion is that the foreign words "jargon" and "slang" make part of Russian and in Russian (as far as I know it, since I am not a linguist) "jargon" covers insulting dialects while "slang" is just peculiar/eqxuisite dialects.

May I ask to start delete/edit my question, so distorting its sense, after answer to question acceptance?

  • 7
    'Jargon' is not a "derogatory remark". Feb 12, 2011 at 14:59
  • @Rhodri, I just wrote what is the fact without any thought. I deleted my comment (before yours). Thanks for letting me know Feb 15, 2011 at 16:31
  • 4
    Your “question” contains 10 actual questions, resulting in quite low readability. Please focus your questions, for the benefit of all of us (you included)!
    – F'x
    Feb 16, 2011 at 11:20
  • 4
    @vgv8, please use comments to ask questions below answers and comments. As is, reading your question above for the first time requires me to read patches of text all over the page before I can understand anything.
    – F'x
    Feb 16, 2011 at 16:43
  • 3
    (1) Could you clarify (by editing) whether you mean "technical copywriting" (as in the title) or "technical writing" (as in the first sentence)? The two are not the same :). (2) Yes, I do know people who wouldn't know the term RAM in a non-ovine sense. But more importantly, even the majority that would recognise the word would be hard pressed to say what it actually means - just as most people would be able to tell you that a carburetor is part of a car, but couldn't tell you what it does or even what it looks like :)
    – psmears
    Feb 19, 2011 at 8:37

7 Answers 7


Technical writing is a broad term. I think the confusion arises because technical writing styles can differ widely with the intended audience. To pull out of the technical arena, compare a high-school biology text book and a genetics paper published in Nature. Both are examples of scientific writing, but the latter can safely lodge itself deeply in the biologists' vernacular, while the former should explain every word that is not plain English.

  • +1, thanks. Last time I read Nature was 20 years ago but, I recall, it uses telegraph style in short articles and terms from specialized domains of science which are not characterized by dictionaries as "not an English word". Just different flavors of scientific styles Feb 13, 2011 at 3:53

Jargon, in that particular context, is not "using incorrect English words". It is this sense of the word:

the technical terminology or characteristic idiom of a special activity or group.

By definition, jargon is language usage that is not ubiquitous throughout the language, and as such is not standard (though it may have a very standard use within its specialist group).

Specialized language that is only understood by a specific group can also have the effect of excluding outsiders. Jargon terms can also be overused by people. As such, derogatory connotations for the term also exist; often the word is used when too much technical terminology is being used.

But if something is called jargon, that does not automatically mean it is incorrect or poor writing.

  • +1, thanks. I do not know anyone who does not use computers. I only know one person who does not use mobiles but he uses electrical appliances and still is capable to read instructions to them. Do you know anybody who does not use electrical appliances and is not cpable of reading instructions to them in technical English? Technical English is, by no means, specialized, it is vulgarized to be understood by anybody Feb 13, 2011 at 3:43
  • 2
    @vgv8: There is an enormous difference between using computers and knowing the thousands of different specialized bits of computer jargon.
    – Kosmonaut
    Feb 14, 2011 at 1:22
  • @Kosmonaut, that's the point that copywriters do not use specialized words. Quite to the opposite they are vulgarizing and popularizing the most exquisite terms in words understandable to anybody Feb 14, 2011 at 2:23
  • @Rhodri, thanks for all your comments. They should be in answer. It seems to me more convenient Feb 15, 2011 at 16:27

You are making a false equivalence between style and jargon. Here is how my electronic Webster's gives the various synonyms for "dialect", which includes jargon:

vernacular When a New York City cab driver calls out the window, “Hey, wassa madda wichoo?” he is using the vernacular, which is the authentic, natural pattern of speech among those belonging to a certain community.

dialect In some areas of London, on the other hand, one might hear the Cockney dialect, which is a form or variety of a language that is confined to a specific group or locality; it has its own pronunciation, usage, and vocabulary, and may persist for generations or even centuries (: he spoke in the dialect of the Appalachian backwoodsman).

slang A teenager who tells his parents to “Chill out” is using slang, which is a very informal language that includes “substitute” vocabulary (“wheels” for car, “rug” for toupee), grammatical distortions, and other departures from formal or polite usage.

argot Argot refers to the slang of a group that feels threatened by the hostility of society as a whole; it traditionally refers to the slang used by criminals and thieves, although it may refer to any peculiar language that a clique or other closely knit group uses to communicate with each other.

cant At one time cant was a synonym for argot, but now it usually refers to pompous, inflated language or the hackneyed use of words and phrases by members of a particular class or profession (: the cant of the fashion industry).

jargon In contrast to cant, which can at least be understood, jargon is nearly impossible for the average person to decipher. This term refers to the technical or highly specialized language used by members of an occupational or professional group (: medical jargon;: the jargon of the theater).

lingo If you are frustrated because you can't understand the language used by a particular class or group, you're apt to refer to their way of talking as lingo, which is a term for any language that is not readily understood (: she tried to reason with the cab driver, but she couldn't understand his lingo).

From these distinctions, I would infer that technical writing is a style of writing that employs a lot of jargon.

  • +1, thanks. "which can at least be understood, jargon is nearly impossible for the average person to decipher". So, prepend is not understandable? What the heck, for whom am I writing? I thought that the more succinct, the more clear? I always suspected that I am write-only Feb 13, 2011 at 3:45
  • 2
    @robusto: Your post alone makes the 154k naira I spent to join this site worthwhile.
    – fortunate1
    Feb 14, 2011 at 18:21
  • @fortunate1, I could not understand why/how have you paid to join this site? Feb 15, 2011 at 16:25
  • Sorry, vg -a bad joke on my part. By coincidence, I received a junk e-mail from China yesterday promising me millions of dollars if I'd only advance the sender some money and share my personal banking information with him, too. It's an old scam [and obsolete, I thought] usually associated with Nigeria -hence my reference to naira. I believed Robusto's answer was so useful and exhaustive that I chose to compliment him in that off-handed way, ironically.
    – fortunate1
    Feb 16, 2011 at 0:44
  • The definition of jargon does not imply the nobody can understand it, but that it is language that cannot be easily understood by people outside of the group. Jargon terms are usually the most clear, precise and succinct language you can use to talk to people within the group, but to an outsider it is usually baffling. In the case of prepend, we have created an artificial term that is meaningless outside of the "in group", since to append means merely to add -- it does not have a positional implication; it can be prepositional or postpositional.
    – bye
    Feb 16, 2011 at 16:15

I saw this question from Stack Overflow, so I thought I'd add my input. You state:

I became confused by comments to my answer insisting that Technical writing is jargon using incorrect English words.

I would disagree with that. Consider the following sentences:

It failed because of an exception that caused the virtual machine to run out of heap space.

Most people (that aren't Java programmers) would consider the above sentence to be jargon, yet it doesn't use any incorrect English words. The non-technical equivilent would be:

It failed because a problem caused the application to run out of memory.

However, the above sentence is far too vague for it to be useful to a programmer trying to find a cure for the issue.

To me, jargon is the (unnecessary) use of technical terms when a simpler one would have sufficed. I find this especially common in the medical profession:

The patient has diaphoresis = sweating

tension pneumothorax = a collapsed lung

  • 1
    BTW, no one on this website has said "incorrect English words"; it's all vgv8's own persistently erroneous interpretation of "jargon" despite many people telling him otherwise. Feb 18, 2011 at 15:48
  • @shreevatsaR: I agree. And regarding doctor's jargon: the terms you quote are decidedly NOT unnecessary unless the doctor is speaking to the grandmother of the victim.
    – horatio
    Feb 18, 2011 at 16:32
  • @horatio: Perhaps they aren't the best examples, but there are plenty of terms that could easily be replaced with plain English. Intravenous anyone?
    – Michael
    Feb 18, 2011 at 17:26
  • 1
    I made no judgement as to whether or not jargon was perjorative. Only that overly technical terms that are not in general use outside a given profession could often be expressed in plain English.
    – Michael
    Feb 19, 2011 at 12:50
  • 3
    @vgv8: as I've commented to you elsewhere, copywriting and writing are not synonyms. Feel free to look them up in a dictionary if you don't believe me, but copywriting is the work of a copywriter and refers to writing for advertising or publicity. If you could please distinguish which one you are referring to (writing in general => writing; just advertising => copywriting), and use the term consistently, you are much likelier to get a useful response :)
    – psmears
    Feb 20, 2011 at 8:35

Jargon does not refer to using words that are not part of English*. Jargon simply refers to words that are used by small groups of people (eg. Hackers) and would not (easily) be understood by the masses. In my humble and worthless opinion, "Technical/Legal Language" is not necessarily the same as jargon, as often, "legal language" can even refer to a "different" way of writing English.

*Oh, and about that: You can't define English. English is simply what people make it to be. The closest you can get to a "definition" of English would be something like the OED.

Rhetoric Questions (that answer your question):

  • Is Jabberwocky written in English?
  • Would you consider it to be "jargon"?
  • If not, why?

"Jargon" is definitely pejorative. If you need to describe the informal language that has grown up around a vocation or avocation, I would recommend "argot". "Prefix" and "prepend" do not mean the same thing. "Prefix" as verb means to create a new word by adding a morpheme to the front of a stem. "Re" plus "do" yielding "redo" is prefixing. "Prepend" means to add to the front of a list (or similar sequence). "Lion" plus "tigers and bears" yielding "lions and tigers and bears (oh, my)" is prepending.

  • I am definitely inclined to agree. Jargon is the dialect isolating/separating, delineating or characterizing specific groups of its users from other language users. There is nothing of this kind in copy-writing Feb 16, 2011 at 15:38
  • 2
    Well, I find "argot" pejorative and "jargon" not. Feb 18, 2011 at 15:47

I'm going to answer your principal question, comment on your approach to revising your questions on english.stackexchange.com and finally attempt to address each of your supplementary questions.

Primary question

Is technical copywriting jargon or style?

Technical copywriting is a style of writing that employs technical terms. People unfamiliar with those technical terms would regard them as jargon.

The word jargon is not always used in an insulting way, it is sometimes used as a complaint by people who feel the written material uses technical terms which are inappropriate for it's audience.

Revisions of questions

As I write this, you question appears as a rather long, slightly rambling, collection of complaints, supplementary material and additional questions. As a copywriter you will be aware that this is not the best way to communicate a complicated subject to your general audience here.

I believe that the facility on english.stackexchange for editing questions is there to enable you (and others) to gradually improve the question. I may be wrong but I believe improvement would best be accomplished, not by periodically extending the text with new material, but by rewriting to produce a clear succinct expression of the question.

Supplementary questions

Technical writing is jargon using incorrect English words.

As others have said, jargon isn't incorrect English. It is only a specialised vocabulary used by a limited group of people. Every profession has their own jargon. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is only when we use that private vocabulary to communicate with people outside the group that we are making an error.

definitions of "prepend" in internet, all with inserted derogatory remarks ... like 'jargon'

Describing a specialised vocabulary as jargon is not especially derogatory. It is usually faintly disparaging but not always. In this reply I am mainly using jargon to mean specialised vocabulary used by a small group of people.

Is Technical Writing jargon or writing-style ...

You restate your main question - see above for my answer.

However I note that in various places you say

  • Technical copywriting
  • Technical writing
  • Copywriting

I am assuming you mean the same thing in each case.

and the branch of correctly used English?

Technical copywiting can be regarded as a branch of English, a subset of English writing, that is a legitimate use of English. When done well, the appropriate audience should regard it as a correct use of English.

Would I better avoid to refer to it as English at all,

I see no harm in referring to a subset of English as English. All of us do. If it involves technical terms you might refer to it as technical English

If I write using the words which are not English WORDS, do I write in English?

Yes. English is still English even when it uses the occasional non-English words where necessary. If I say I visited München, I am still writing English - though some might wonder why I chose not to use an anglicized form of the place-name. If you carry this too far, you might end up using a mixture of languages.

The term Copywriting "refers to writing ... non-technical material". Where is here a "jargon ... nearly impossible for the average person to decipher"?

Are we still referring to what you elsewhere call "Technical copyrighting" or are you making a distinction?

In my inexpert view:

  • Copywriting for a general audience should not contain unexplained jargon.

  • Technical copywriting (for a technical audience) should make appropriate use of a technical vocabulary that a general audience might regard as jargon.

What is unclear in "prepend" and to whom?

So far as I know prepend isn't in general use amongst English speakers - I think some of the other answers may have shown this - I'll update this part of my answer with some statistics later, if I can find some.

Why isn't busyness letter or step-by-step instructions a formal writing?

Business letters and step-by-step instructions can be formal writing. You could write them in an informal way but this would often be inappropriate.

Should it be be understood that insulting obscenities known to everybody are not jargon [but] full members of "correct" English ... [whereas] understandable "technical" ubiquitous words are out?.

No it should not. Some insulting obscenities might be both jargon and full members of English. English jargon words are as much members of the English vocabulary as English obscene words. As discussed elsewhere, there is no single authoritative nor prescriptive authority for what is English. I think you may be focussing on the wrong thing here. At issue is whether it is appropriate to use certain words in certain types of writing - not whether they are English words.

Do you know anybody who ... does NOT know the words RAM or CPU?

Yes. Members of my family have complained to me saying "why should I need to know this? I just want to send an email to my sister!"

Do you know anybody who ... knows, without consulting with dictionaries, all "correct" words of a language?

Yes. JRR Tolkein knew all the words of the languages he invented. I doubt anyone could recite the million or so words that some say are in English. I don't think you can draw any conclusions from these two facts - certainly none that seem relevant to your main question.

May I ask [people] to [not] delete/edit my question, so distorting its sense, after [an] answer to [my] question [has been accepted]?

You can ask. In my view, the question desperately needs editing. There is a good reason why the designers of english.stackexchange designed it to allow people to edit other's questions.

I hope the above helps and does not cause offence, none is intended. If offence is caused, I regret it and apologise for any deficiency in my writing, or carelessness on my part, that caused it.

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