Jargon Caveat

I noticed recently that I used the word “caveat” two or three times during a workshop. It bothered me and on reflection I realised it was because I was assuming everyone in the room (typically a mix of people from all over the world) would know the meaning. They might get from context I was pointing out an exception to a point I had just made, but caveat is not a word used in everyday speech.

I’ve decided I’ll use it more sparingly from now on. “Exception” will do just fine.

Every academic discipline or field has jargon: the words which are part of the secret language of the area. Sometimes they’re a shorthand for clarity, but they only work if everyone understands the meaning. It’s not impossible to use jargon and misunderstand it yourself!

Be sure that you have a good grasp on the secret words of your field. Make sure your audience, examiners or otherwise, will understand you.

Make sure you know what the words mean.


Whatever field you explore for your research, you will have terms that others can’t easily understand. There may be terminology that you can’t easily understand. I built up shorthand in my head, “OK, so a genus 2 mutation is like a donut with two holes. But not quite.”

Yeah, not quite…

When you come to read through your thesis, either when you’re finishing it up for submission or when you’re reading to prepare for the viva, make a list of terms that you find. Make notes about what these all mean. Be certain of your jargon. Break it down for yourself and you’ll be able to explain it better to others.