Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jargon

jargon: a barbarous, rude, or debased variety of speech; lingo

Despite the Oxford English Dictionary's insistence that jargon is barbarous, a lot of writing uses it - particularly novels for teens. In fact, a number of acclaimed novels for teens have used it: M.T. Anderson's FEED and Paolo Bacigalupi's SHIP BREAKER are just two examples. You might have used jargon in your novel. Quite often, the jargon is invented, as a part of the new world that the novel is set in.

HOWEVER, this is something you want to keep out of your query letter. Jargon is specific to a generation, a geographical area, sometimes even a gender. The jargon in your book is probably specific to your book. Taken out of the context of your novel, it could be confusing and need too much explaining, and you don't have time for wasted words in a query letter.

So, even though you want the voice in your query letter to match the voice in your manuscript, try to do it without using jargon.

Do you use jargon in your novel?


  1. I'm using police jargon in my crime novel--and it is a pain to write.

    --Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2012

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  2. Great post :) I liked learning about this word. I only wish that I was writing a novel!

    Nikki – inspire nordic

  3. A timely post. I have a Portuguese character in the novel I'm editing and I just eliminated the jargon and I'm having another character in the book translate. It's so much easier to read.

  4. I write fantasy so I do use some jargon--but not too much.
    Dropping by from the A-Z!

  5. Interesting. I never would have thought to use MS jargon in a query letter, so that's probably a good thing.

  6. I don't really use much jargon. But good points here if you do.

  7. Jargon is a necessary evil in scientific publications, but then again, they're written for other scientists. When I teach nonfiction writing, however, I always warn writers to be deliberate about using it in articles, especially for kids. I see it as an extension of vocabulary awareness - you can use the big words all you want, as long as you explain them. Which is not something you have space for in a query!