I looked up the term jargon and got the dictionary definition: “1. a: confused unintelligible language; b: a strange, outlandish, or barbarous language or dialect.” Yup. That sounds about right.

The airline industry is full of acronyms and jargon. We throw terms such as RASM, CASM, and PRASM around as if they are household words. And then there is my favorite, the crack spread (the difference between the price of crude oil and petroleum products extracted from it, such as gasoline and jet fuel). Add that to the long list of U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation, Transportation Security Administration, and Department of Homeland Security terms, and it’s almost as if we need a separate dictionary just to decipher the code.

The audit profession has its own language as well. We have comfort letters, detective controls, GAAP and GAAS, SOX, PCAOB (aka, peek-a-boo), and the risk of incorrect rejection — although one might argue that this last term is also often used when girlfriends get together over a bottle of wine to gab. 

So, I’ve decided to experiment by replacing all of the jargon in our latest audit report with “plain English.” Too bad the audit was titled GSE.

Posted on Oct 20, 2011 by Kiko Harvey

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  1. To me it is entirely dependant on the audience. For example in the executive summary section of our reports we never use jargon or abbreviations without clarifying it. But, in the detailed report we sometimes do as quite often line management are aware of the terms being used.

    In instances where the term is not commonly used within the clients evironment (e.g. acronyms to legislation, frameworks etc) we also provide definitions of acronyms and terms.

    I don't think there is a perfect fit but it is much rather a case of writing with your audience in mind.

  1. Completely agree with Horatio. If you know your audience well enough to know that the industry-specific terminology you use is the prevailing language, then it has an efficiency in communication you can lean on. However, outside of the community, and without sufficiently clear explanation in plain English reinforced with appropriate anecdotes and accurate analogies, this is just looked at as so much male bovine fecal matter. There is enough of that in the world without adding to the pile.


    Auditor Audit Thy Self…
    I agree with the previous commenter’s but I believe Kiko’s point is that we are sometimes so familiar with our own (control) language we sometimes fail to realize our own communications lapses. As an audit consultant (vs. IAPPP – Internal Audit Professional Practice Provider), I often find myself in audit/management meetings translating for management. And, while management may be familiar with our language, they are often not fluent enough match our delivery. We have all talked with non-native English speakers and experience times where our message was not effectively received. This often occurs when our careless jargon is either misunderstood or we leave the listener behind as they process unfamiliar terminology.
    It is the messenger’s responsibility to ensure messages are being effectively received. An argued point that is clearly understood is deemed more creditable than the same point delivered with less clarity (If this is not obvious there are several supporting studies I can provide). We can ensure the clarity of our message by focusing on terms common to both parties in the conversation. And while management may be able to translate the term “meeting the objectives of adequate controls” I find they respond better to “process strength.”
  1. Is the purpose of Jargon is to confuse the already confused audience so that they trap in deciphering the jargons and effectively not get to the real message. Is this a result of deliberate attempt by palying with words so that when audience feel that they can't get what we are upto so we could say we need you to achieve some level of understanding in order to understand our process and than you would be in a position to comment. We often heard the statement to explain in plain English and I wonder why it so. Is it necessary for person to acheive the level of sophistication we as an audit professional possessed in order to be on same wave length. Effective delivery of message lies in explaining your message in a way that your audience understand and get the message and after all you need to relate your self with the audience.

    Our audit report is full of jargons which only audit nerds could understand and yet we claim we address our report to audience which we believe not possess the competency to understand the jargons.

  1. It all boils down to getting the message across, and being effective. 

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