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UK Government: Plain English is not dumb English

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Staff writer ▼ | July 31, 2013
JargonWe are used to business and political sector jargon, words that come in stampede but mean nothing. Now the UK Government issued a set of rules to teach politicians how to speak in plain English.


Officials in the United Kingdom have been issued with an online style guide that tells them what unacceptable speech is. More than 30 terms of jargon that happily lived in Government announcements and policy documents have been placed off-limits.

The style guide has been created by the team who put together the Government's new website Gov.uk which bring all Government services in one place, easy to use and navigate.

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

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. Some people have previously seen this as 'dumbing down' but being open and accessible to everyone isn't 'dumb' – it's our responsibility," wrote Ms. Richards.

So, what's out? Slimming down if it isn't about a processes don't diet, foster unless it is children, 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'), and key (unless it unlocks something. A subject/thing isn't "key", it's probably "important").

Progress is also gone 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 football or some other sport), transforming (what are you actually doing to change it?), and going forward (unlikely we are giving travel directions).

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