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Effective Communication: Jargon in the IT Industry

Hippocrates once philosophised that “the chief virtue that language can have is clearness, and nothing detracts from it so much as the use of unfamiliar words”: in a world where the amount of technical language is steadily increasing, awareness of clearness is a vital factor in a company’s communication.

Staff must have a level of understanding of technical terminology that allows them to communicate quickly and easily within the organisation, and clearly to people outside the organisation to ensure that all concepts are clarified. Jargon lends itself well to the former: esoteric terms and acronyms can act as helpful shortcuts to prevent explaining detailed concepts each time they are discussed. Be wary of using them too much in external communications though, lest the customer be left behind.

One area where confusion is particularly likely is acronyms and, in the cloud space, these are plentiful. A survey carried out by the Six Degrees Group (6DG) found that 22% of IT professionals believed Platform as a Service (PaaS) was a new railway management system, whilst 16% thought Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) was a new road project. The image below shows their position (along with Software as a Service (SaaS)) in the hosting stack.


Assuming a customer will have a comfortable grasp of these acronyms (or even the concepts they represent) should be avoided at the initial stage, as it may lead to them misunderstanding the service they are paying for. As their custom becomes more established and the rapport increases, it may be possible to transition to using more jargon when discussing products – but ensure this is welcome first.

The key point is to strike the balance and have members of staff that are well versed in all relevant terminology, but able to explain concepts in more accessible terminology when speaking to the customer. This is an especially important consideration in the hiring process!

Gauging whether a prospective employee understands the requisite terminology is vital at the interview stage, increasingly so with applications for more senior positions. It is good form to mention any jargon in the job posting which will be assessed in the interview to ensure that applicants know what they’re getting into when they apply: this will also save you time by allowing you to create a shortlist of the most suitable applicants.

A few guidelines to effectively structuring a job advertisement:

  • Only use jargon when referring to skills and processes directly necessary to the role, e.g. applicant must have a working knowledge of IaaS and SaaS
  • Describing the responsibilities of the role in clear language
  • Describe what the business does in clear language

Do also remember that concepts and jargon can be taught, however. If a candidate ticks all of the other boxes but is uncomfortable with some jargon at the interview stage, do not immediately throw out the application!

You may also consider producing a jargon buster on your company’s website: this will have the combined benefits of providing clarification for customers and applicants who would like to learn more about the service you offer, and it will indicate which applicants have done adequate research into the brand ahead of the interview. If you need inspiration on this front, take a look at 6DG’s jargon buster which breaks down some of the more technical concepts related to the cloud and co-location.

 Also check out NewVoiceMedia's modern call centre jargon-busting guide.
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