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Jargon consists of words that relate to a specific group, profession, or event.
  • actionable intelligence
  • bait and switch
  • behind the eight ball
  • best practice
  • bounced check
  • brain trust
  • bull market
  • circular file
  • core competency
  • face time
  • fall guy
  • file thirteen
  • food chain
  • free lunch
  • game changer
  • head count
  • hired gun
  • in the loop
  • in the red/black
  • in the running
  • out of pocket
  • push back
  • put to bed
  • time frame
  • value added

Medicine is full of Latin words that sound intimidating but mean relatively little. 

  • Thyroiditis (root word thyroid + itis meaning inflammation)
  • Myeloma (root word  myelo=marrow+ oma meaning growth)
  • Endocrinology (root word endocrine + ology meaning study of)
Although it is Latin, it is also their jargon. Medical terminology is full of acronyms. If you've ever listened to a professional conversation and been unable to follow the acronyms, you've listened to jargon.
  • CT scan (computed topography)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • BMP (basic metabolic panel)
  • CBC (complete blood count)
  • PET scan (positron emission topography). 
Jargon is used as short-hand to refer to things common to people’s understanding. The art of texting has inspired an entirely new acronym vocabulary.
  • BTW - By The Way
  • IMHO - In My Humble Opinion
  • MOTD - Message Of The Day
  • FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
  • CYA - See You Around
  • HTH - Hope This Helps
  • FYI - For Your Information
  • LOL - Laugh Out Loud
  • PFA - Please Find Atached
The field of computing has spawned many jargon words:

  • blog
  • Byte
  • CD-Rom
  • disk drive
  • email
  • hard drive
  • hyperlink
  • internet
  • RAM
  • vlog

For fantasy and science fiction writers, building a new world can be enriched by adding a few - I stress few - new words and phrases. Make certain you clarify their meaning to the reader. Adding a dash of unique jargon brings your world to life. Too many obscure references, and you risk losing a reader's interest.

For historical writers, you have nitpicky fans. Look up when a term was first used. They love to point out your errors.


? Turn on the Clichés, Colloquialisms, and Jargon option in the toolbox. They will be marked for you. As you read through your draft, decide which to keep and which to kill. Have you used the jargon intentionally?
? Does it mean what you think it means?
? Have you committed jargon abuse? Should you trim it?
? Does the jargon fit the time and place?
? Does the jargon fit the background and personality of the character uttering it?


Colloquialisms are words or phrases that we use in conversation or informal situations. 

An example would be the different ways people refer to carbonated beverages: cola, soda, soda pop, and pop.

Another example is cooked batter: pancake, griddle cake, flap jack, Johnny cake, and short stack.

They can be words (gonna), phrases (hang on), or aphorisms (when the going gets tough, the tough get going).

A few examples of colloquialisms include: 

  • bat out of hell 
  • beating a dead horse 
  • bigger than a barn 
  • bump on a log 
  • couldn't care less 
  • crazy as a loon 
  • deader than a doornail 
  • dumb as stump 
  • drunk as a monkey 
  • happy as a pig in shit 
  • hell for leather 
  • hotter than hell 
  • knocked into next week 
  • like flies on shit 
  • like white on rice 
  • meaner than a snake 
  • neat as a pin 
  • not the brightest crayon 
  • older than dirt 
  • one fry short of a happy meal 
  • piece of cake 
  • shut your pie hole 
  • slow as molasses 
  • tighter than a banjo string 
Colloquialism, clichés, and slang are close cousins and hard to differentiate. In general, colloquialisms are limited to a specific geographic location (the southern states) and slang is more widespread (America).

It isn't important for the sake of revision to worry about the finer points of distinction. We aren't in English class anymore. The important point is to use them wisely.

Both colloquialisms and slang can be used as a dialogue plant and payoff: a phrase repeated two or three times at critical points in the story between two characters.

Creating unique colloquialisms and slang for your fantasy world can add a dash of spice. Don't over do it.

Getting the historical slang wrong will earn you e-mails pointing out that the phrase was not used until _____. Nitpickers love this stuff.

Both can add color to your prose and dialogue. Sprinkled throughout a manuscript, they are fine. A few sprinkled in a paragraph is considered overdoing it.

Revision Tips
? Turn on the Clichés, Colloquialisms, and Jargon option in the toolbox in Word. These items will be marked for you. As you read through your draft, decide which to keep and which to kill. Have you used the cliché intentionally?
? Can you twist it or make it fresh?
? Have you committed colloquialism abuse? Should you trim them?
? Does the languge fit the time and place?
? Does the languge fit the background and personality of the character uttering it?

For all of the revision tips on colloquialisms and other revision layers, pick up a copy of: 

Purple Prose

Purple prose consists of passages so cloying, over the top, or dramatic that they create speed bumps for the reader. It employs an abundance of adjectives and dense descriptive detail. 

Purple prose should be weeded out when found, unless that is your preferred writing style. In which case, you may deter some readers and agents. 

The worst offenders are romantic scenes, because writers try to avoid clinical terms for the acts of love and body parts. A lot of slang words are too crude and don't fit the mood of the piece. 

Purple prose can be a product of weak description writing. Some writers stuff so many descriptions in a paragraph the reader forgets the topic.

1) Avoid using annoying phrases:

  • bated breath (not baited!)
  • cupid lips,
  • framed by
  • heart-shaped face
  • limped pools
  • manly chin
  • revealed
  • set off by
  • steely eyes
  • heaving or swelling bosom,
  • tumescent member
  • twirling lock of hair
  • wriggling eyebrows

2) Avoid melodramatic descriptions:

Her ample bosom heaved as he slowly untied her frilled, satin night dress. His caress made her tremble like a delicate blossom in the breeze as he nibbled on the petals of her ears.

3) Avoid descriptions that go on ... and on ... and on. 

She stood there, like a pale lilly, swaying in the wind, her corn silk hair floating around her heart-shaped face like golden cloud, obscuring her sky-blue eyes. The flyaway strands parted as her rosebud lips pursed and blew them aside. Her gauzy white gown clung to her voluptuous curves. She was the absolute embodiment of a seductive angel.

An effective cumulative sentence (base clause plus two or three descriptive phrases) is a master craft. Stuffing as many fluffy descriptions as you can think of into a sentence is not masterful.


?  Have you used melodrama intentionally, such as in dialogue or poking fun of a situation?
? Can you tone it down?
? Have you committed purple prose abuse?
? Does the language fit the background and personality of the character uttering it?

For all of the revision tips on purple prose and other revision layers, pick up a copy of: 


Idioms are colloquial metaphors. They say one thing but mean another and cannot be taken literally.

If a couple breaks up, that means they stop seeing each other, not that body parts go flying. 

There are thousands of idioms that enrich our language. The trouble begins when a child, foreign person, or alien takes one of our idioms literally.

"We'll have you for dinner," does not mean the person will be eaten by cannibals.

There isn’t room here to list the busload of idioms, but I offer a few examples:

  • at length
  • burn off
  • by the way
  • chin up
  • common touch
  • fly away
  • in step with
  • lay aside
  • leaf through
  • no less than
  • put down
  • put in the way of
  • run along
  • slap on the wrist
  • take a lick at
  • think tank
Here are a few of the many sites listing idioms. Make your own list. Highlight your favorite bugaboos and prune them.

?  Have you used idioms intentionally?
? Have you committed idiom prose abuse?
? Does the usage fit the situation, era, or time frame? You might want to check the date it was first used.
? If uttered in dialogue, does the idiom fit the background and personality of the character uttering it?

For all of the revision tips on verbs and other revision layers, pick up a copy of: