Civil Servants face ban on buzzwords and jargon

Discussion in 'The Quarterdeck' started by sgtpepperband, Jul 27, 2013.

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  1. sgtpepperband

    sgtpepperband War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer

    'Only pizzas are delivered': Public sector jargon banned in first style guide for Government announcements

    As the fictional permanent secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby once said: "If you ask me for a straight answer, then I shall say that, as far as we can see, looking at it by and large, taking one thing with another in terms of the average of departments, then in the final analysis it is probably true to say, that at the end of the day, in general terms, you would probably find that, not to put too fine a point on it, there probably wasn't very much in it one way or the other."

    But no more.

    Britain’s cadre of real life civil servants have finally been banned from using the jargon that has kept the comedy writers from Yes Minister to the Thick Of It in gags for years. Officials have been issued with an online style guide that tells them, for the first time, what unacceptable Whitehallese is.

    Out goes ‘deliver’. Pizzas and post are delivered, it points out, not abstract concepts like ‘improvements’ or ‘priorities’. Officials can no long ‘drive’ anything out (unless it is cattle) or ‘foster’ (unless it is children). Tackling is also banned (unless Sir Humphrey or Terri Coverley are playing rugby or football) while the ‘key’ should always be in the lock.

    Overall more than 30 terms of jargon that have crept into Government announcements and policy documents over the years have been placed off-limits. There will be no more advancing, collaborating, combating or pledging. People will no longer be empowered. Government will no longer facilitate while even ministers will not be focusing on areas of policy.

    The style guide has been created by the team who put together the Government’s new website – which aims to bring together every Government service in a single format that is easy to navigate and use. In the forward to the style guide the authors point out that this aim will be negated if everything published if full of official gobbledy gook.

    "We lose trust from our users if we write government ‘buzzwords’ and jargon," they point out. "Often, these words are too general and vague and can lead to misinterpretation or empty, meaningless text. We can do without these words."

    Sarah Richards, who worked on the guide, said plain English was not the same a dumbing down. "The style is about writing clearly, concisely and without jargon. Everyone can benefit from simplicity,” she wrote on a blog launching the site. Some people have previously seen this as ‘dumbing down’ but being open and accessible to everyone isn’t ‘dumb’ – it’s our responsibility."

    But a quick glance at recent Government press notices suggest that some officials still have something to learn. Take this recent ‘news story’ from the Cabinet Office - the department that is also responsible for

    "The government is establishing a Global Learning Exchange on impact investment. Impact investment provides capital to deliver both social and financial results. This multi-stakeholder exchange will focus on sharing best practice on ‘what works’ in impact investing. It will provide a shared platform to debate and create ideas as well as inviting new voices to the field. Social impact investment has a critical role to play in helping entrepreneurs around the world to identify sustainable solutions to the most challenging social issues. The G8 Social Impact Investment Forum represents an exciting point in the development of the field – bringing together, for the first time, government, industry and civil society leaders to identify ways to catalyse the global market." It makes Sir Humphrey sound erudite.

    But Steve Jenner from Plain English Campaign said any attempt to improve things was very welcome. "For many years government has been presented to the public in finest government departmental gobbledygook," he said. "The fact that much of this is unintentionally hilarious suggests how bad things had become. Plain English Campaign applauds this attempt to encourage clarity, though, and would be happy to assist any government department in this."

    Tongue firmly in cheek a Cabinet Office Spokeswoman said: "Going forward, we will be advancing a pledge to deliver and utilise clearer language on our award-winning GOV.UK. We are keen to foster improved cooperation to empower further the public and are delighted that the Independent has recognised this drive to deploy and leverage a streamlined vocabulary. But seriously, we want to get better at this, and the Content Guide is one of the reasons GOV.UK has over 1.3m users a month."

    Jargon: What’s out

    * Slimming down (processes don’t diet)
    * Foster (unless it is children)
    * Agenda (unless it is for a meeting)
    * Commit/pledge (we’re either doing something or we’re not)
    * Deliver (pizzas, post and services are delivered – not abstract concepts like ‘improvements’ or ‘priorities’)
    * Deploy (unless it is military or software)
    * Dialogue (we speak to people)
    * Key (unless it unlocks something. A subject/thing isn’t ‘key’ – it’s probably ‘important’)
    * Progress (as a verb – what are you actually doing?)
    * Promote (unless you are talking about an ad campaign or some other marketing promotion)
    * Strengthening (unless it’s strengthening bridges or other structures)
    * Tackling (unless it is rugby, football or some other sport)
    * Transforming (what are you actually doing to change it?)
    * Going forward (unlikely we are giving travel directions)

    'Only pizzas are delivered': Public sector jargon banned in first style guide for Government announcements - UK Politics - UK - The Independent
    (Source: The Independent)
  2. Seadog

    Seadog War Hero Moderator

    Words cannot describe how much I loathe that phrase.

    It isn't just the Civil Service. Certain Officers, particulary Commanders, Captains and Commodores and thrusting Senior Rates love to pad out their chats talks with jargon. We stakeholders get really annoyed.
  3. I really can't stand TLA's
    • Like Like x 1
  4. sgtpepperband

    sgtpepperband War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer

    LOL lol lol
  5. Please can they take `preferred bidder` and `best practice` as well.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. 'Business partner' and 'managed risk' added to the jargon that may no longer be used.
  7. Seadog

    Seadog War Hero Moderator

    I used 'best practise' in a refit spec nearly ten years ago. The shame remains......................

    Bottle of whisky, big tumbler, Mess Webley.
  8. Seadog

    Seadog War Hero Moderator

    Joint_Force_Harrier wrote

    Can't stand TLA's what?

    Sigh. We are fcuking doomed.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Ageing_Gracefully

    Ageing_Gracefully War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer

    Sir! ? ;-)
  10. FA2 and GR9 must've really annoyed you then.
  11. Having reviewed this forum suggest the following:
    I think we need to hit the ground running, keep our eye on the ball, and make sure that we are singing off the same hymn sheet. At the end of the day it is not a level playing field and the goal posts may move. If they do, someone else may have to pick the ball up and run with it. We therefore must have a golf bag of options hot-to- trot from the word ‘go’. It is your train set but we cannot afford to leave it on the back burner, we’ve got a lot of irons in the fire right now
    We will need to un-stick a few potential poo traps but it all depends on the flash-to-bang time and fudge factor allowed. Things may end up slipping to the left and, if they do, we will need to run a tight ship. I don’t want to re-invent the wheel but we must get right down in the weeds on this one.
    If push comes to shove, we may have to up stumps and then we’ll be in a whole new ball game. I suggest we test the water with a few warmers in the bank. If AFHQ can produce the goods then we are cooking with gas. If not, then we are in a world of hurt. I don’t want to die in a ditch over it but we could easily end up in a flat spin if people start getting twitchy. To that end, I want to get round the bazaars and make sure the movers and shakers are on side from day one.
    If you can hit me with your shopping list I can take it to the head honchos and start the ball rolling. If it goes pear-shaped, it is no good throwing our toys out of the pram or our teddy in the corner. Instead we may have to fine-tune it n order to do a re-gain. We’ll be hung out to dry if becomes a showstopper.
    There is light at the end of the tunnel and I think we have backed a winner here. If it a gets blown out of the water, however, I will be throwing a track. So get your feet in to my in-tray and give me chapter and verse as to how you see things panning out. As long as our ducks are in a row, I think the ball will stay in play and we can come up smelling of roses. Before you bomb burst and throw smoke, it is imperative that we play with a straight bat this time around. We need to nail our colours very firmly to the mast and look at the big picture.
    We’ve got to march to the beat of the drum. We are on a sticky wicket. I’ve been on permanent send for long enough and I’ve had my two cents worth. I don’t want to rock the boat or teach anyone to suck eggs. We must keep this very firmly in our sight picture or it could fall between the cracks. I don’t want to be seen to be re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic but if the cap fits, wear it. At the end of the day, it’s like a big game of Space invaders, the aliens are getting closer and if we don’t zap them it’ll be game over for the lot of us.
    There are a number of wolves close to the sledge, and alligators close to the canoe, which need to be shot. As you are aware, it’s a bit like punching a cloud round here. The heads of shed often play fast and loose, so it’s stand by to repel boarders, I’m afraid.
    So for now we have our backs to the wall and nose to the grind stone, I’ve opened Pandoras box so we must face the music with this wind of change.
    Right!, Unless anyone wants to flag-up any bullet points I’ll be in my office. My door is always open and I m as flexible as a palm tree in a hurricane. The ball is in your court; don’t let the wheel come off. If it unravels, your arse is grass and I’m a lawnmower
    • Like Like x 3
  12. Canberra T17 and PR9 also
  13. You must know my boss, he has no comprehension of plain speaking either!!!! :laughing7:
  14. Some blue sky thinking there, well out of the box.
  15. My faves were, lets run it up the pole and see who salutes it, and best bang for a buck, dont know what they meant but made me feel all grown up and corporate.
  16. wal

    wal Badgeman

    J_F_H, have you got signage up to indicate that your door is open. God how I ate that word. They are ****ing signs for **** sake.
  17. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    For me, one on the most annoying trends imported into "management speak", is the ridiculous use of the word "so" at the beginning of a sentence. The work is completely superfluous and the sentence makes entire sense without it.

    Not sure if it's an American import or from whence it spawned, but it irks greatly and is already being uttered frequently in a wardroom near you, rest assured.
  18. So what's the problem with that?
    • Like Like x 2
  19. AAF

    AAF Badgeman

    '' Basically'' is another one, gets on my tits.
  20. So basically, what?
    • Like Like x 1

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