Friday 10 July 2009

Saying what you mean

I mentioned yesterday that officialdom seems to have decided that 'schools' are now to be called 'learning settings'. Tomos Livingstone in today's Western Mail draws attention to some other examples of waffle and jargon. Most of us fall into the trap of using circumlocution where a simpler wording would do at times; but governments and public sector bodies seem to make a profession of it.

"Address the agenda" has always seemed to me to be an example, of sorts, of what Churchill had in mind as a schoolboy when he asked why the vocative case was relevant to an inanimate object. And that's one of the simpler ones.

Some other recent examples I've come across are:

"Appoint a caucus of sector champions", which seems to mean setting up a sub-committee.

"Engage a wide group of interested stakeholders" – talk to a few people.

"Develop a network to inform and sign-post" – collect e-mail addresses and send them newsletters.

"Conduct a light-touch evaluation in the form of an exit survey" – ask people what they thought.

The worst of it is that these sorts of phrases often appear in documents which are, apparently, aimed at giving people an opportunity to influence (or as they would say 'become engaged with') what the bodies concerned are trying to do. The phrases used, however, seem almost designed to have the exact opposite effect.

Governments and their officials really need to try harder to start writing in plain simple language. And I won't even start on the question of trying to translate this flowery language into readable Welsh...


Adam Higgitt said...

"Establish a framework" - set some rules

"Take forward" - do.

"Going forward" - in the future

Robert Lloyd said...

The word that's driving me nuts at the moment is plurality.
I've heard Nick Bourne trotting it out and wonder why politicians can't keep it simple?
Why do they have to use the 'latest fashion' words? This example from Janice Gregory AM the other day. If she means 'choice', then why doesn't she say choice rather than plurality?

"We have seen Welsh programming being slashed on ITV Wales in recent years," said committee chair, Janice Gregory AM.
"But plurality in English and Welsh medium broadcasting is essential for the future of the democratic process and indeed devolution in Wales."

Dewi Harries said...

John - you are not singing from the same hymn sheet as the rest of us. You obviously don't relate to the contemporary narrative.