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Get On Message About Our Functional Organisational Time-phases**

6 November 2010

Since my last post about all this ghastly “marketing speak”, I’ve come across an article that appeared in the BBC Magazine a couple of years ago. 

My favourite, because I’m not sure that anyone under the age of 30 would consider it odd,  is “Let’s touch base about that offline”.  (Let’s have a chat?)

One person mentions that Australians now use “auspice” as a verb (“It was auspiced by”) but I haven’t come across that.  They do use a lot of other nouns as verbs though which takes a bit of getting use to – as in “The Prime Minister farewelled the troops”. 

Incidentally, I don’t have a problem with language changing.  I’m well aware that we find it very difficult to understand English as written (and, presumably, spoken) in the Middle Ages.  Most languages constantly evolve.  But the current obsession seems to involve replacing one word with five or six (as in “at this moment in time” instead of “now”?).  And there appears to be a belief that if your sentence is riddled with jargon and cliches, it somehow makes you look like an educated intellectual.  What it actually does is make it difficult for people to understand what you’re saying – and you may have something very important and/or interesting to say.

The Plain English Campaign, in the UK, campaigns for the use of plain English (obviously) in official and corporate documents, primarily so that we all know what our laws mean and what we’re signing when we enter into a contract with a finance company, for example.  Their website has some delightful examples of the winners of their Golden Bull Awards.  I liked “High quality learning environments are a necessary precondition for facilitation and enhancement of the ongoing learning process”, which they translate as “Children need good schools if they are to learn properly”.  They even have a Gobbledygook Generator. “Have you ever wanted to use meaningless, empty phrases that make it look like you know what you’re talking about?”.   But they’re not just there to make fun of this garbage, they run training courses and a number of English institutions now send their documents to be checked for plain, comprehensible English.  As a result, a number of financial institutions now produce literature that can be understood by those of us who don’t possess a law degree.

If you have a couple of hours to spare, their website makes wonderful reading.  

** Produced by the Gobbledygook Generator!

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One comment

  1. I was working for a retail bank when the Consumer Credit Code mandated plain English for the terms and conditions of bank loans – this was around 1995 or 1996. The terms and conditions document went overnight from 4 pages to about 15; from a size that was tempting for people to have a go at reading if they persevered with the language, to far too thick for anyone in their right mind to read, even though it was possible.



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