Exercise 2: Abstract on Jargon Use, Instructor's Analysis
Compensatory Use of Jargon, Instructor’s Analysis
Jargon and terminology highlighted in yellow:
Compensatory conspicuous communication: Low status increases jargon use
Jargon is commonly used to efficiently communicate and signal group membership. We propose that jargon use also serves a status compensation function. We first define jargon and distinguish it from slang and technical language. Nine studies, including experiments and archival data analyses, test whether low status increases jargon use. Analyses of 64,000 dissertations found that titles produced by authors from lower-status schools included more jargon than titles from higher-status school authors. Experimental manipulations established that low status causally increases jargon use, even in live conversations. Statistical mediation and experimental-causal-chain analyses demonstrated that the low status → jargon effect is driven by increased concern with audience evaluations over conversational clarity. Additional archival and experimental evidence found that acronyms and legalese serve a similar status-compensation function as other forms of jargon (e.g., complex language). These findings establish a new driver of jargon use and demonstrate that communication, like consumption, can be both compensatory and conspicuous.
Jargon Use Linked to Feelings of Inferiority, Study Shows
Jargon is commonly used to make communication easier and quicker. It also helps create a sense of group identity. But we have found jargon has another function which has so far gone unnoticed: as a prop to compensate for mediocre or low status. In our study, we first define jargon and distinguish it from slang and technical language. We carried out nine studies, including experiments and archival data analyses, to test whether low status increases jargon use. Analyses of 64,000 dissertations found that titles produced by authors from less prestigious schools included more jargon than the works of authors from more famous institutions. Through experimental manipulations, that is, analyses that alter variables to compare outcomes under various conditions, we found this phenomenon to be characteristic of conversation as well as writing. Our studies used statistical mediation and experimental-causal-chain analyses, which involve using a controlled third variable to compare the relationships between a dependent and independent variable. Our analyses indicated jargon is used to impress audiences even at the expense of clarity in conversation. Additional archival and experimental evidence found that acronyms and legalese serve a similar status-compensation function as other forms of jargon (e.g., complex language). These findings establish a new driver of jargon use and demonstrate that communication, like consumption, can be both compensatory and conspicuous.
The original text is 161 words. My rewrite is 226 words. In this case, unless the publisher has imposed a word limit, I believe plain language explanations and other changes are worth making the abstract longer.
The original could be more reader friendly by using less stilted language. For example, “lower-status” seems to mean the same as the more colloquial “less prestigious.” My effort to explain “experimental manipulations” and “statistical mediation and experimental-causal-chain analyses” may not be ideal. But at least I have tried to make the terminology more accessible to non-specialists. An expert in the field should be able to explain in plain language more clearly than I have done.
This study has been carried out by two prestigious business schools and appears to break new, so it deserves as wide a readership as it can get. Making the article readable to non-specialists makes sense.
Besides jargon, I highlighted an example of word clutter (discussed in the next section). “Live” before “conversation” is unnecessary, certainly in this context, even if the conversation takes place on Zoom, WhatsApp, or any other messaging advice. There is no such thing as a “dead conversation,” except in the sense of a conversation that ends in acrimony or contention and which one or more participants has decides is not worth continuing.