Archive for January, 2012
There probably isn’t an English-speaking Nigerian out there who, this January, did not learn the word “cabal” (and we would not be surprised if others are talking about this infamous group in their mother tongues). But before the fuel subsidy protests popularised its most derogative meaning, CABAL was banking jargon in Nigeria with the most innocent of denotations.
If a bank manager on a Monday morning walks over to the cash officer and asks to see the “CABAL,” don’t expect to find the group of shifty individuals that Nigerians are looking for. Instead, the cash officer will hand over a document with the bank’s Current Account Balance, otherwise known by the acronym.
Nearly every business sector has terms which have either been invented or redefined to mean something specific to the people within it. These terms are jargon; they are supposed to be quick and convenient when speaking. Yet the unfortunate “cabal” coincidence demonstrates that jargon should be avoided in mainstream communications; in this case it could spark a protest!
Business writers must remember that different words mean different things to different people. As a writer, your goal is to be understood by every member your audience. You should therefore try and avoid jargon, and instead find clear and unambiguous expressions. To get around jargon, you can ask yourself: “what do I really mean?” and “how would people outside the sector understand it?” If you absolutely must use jargon or acronyms, first spell them out fully and explain what they mean in everyday language. This way no reader gets lost.
So, when writing for a general audience, remember to say “NO!” to CABAL the jargon. And while we are at it, let’s also say a resounding “NO!” to the other cabal, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a small body of persons engaged in secret or private machination or intrigue; a junto, clique, côterie, party, faction.”