Originally published on 27 July 2014 on www.boldface.com.au:
The British Home Office has produced a style guide which recommends against a whole lot of jargon words.
It’s excellent, particularly the section on Plain English.
I have to admit to being guilty to using some of this jargon in my editing and writing work…
What about you? Guilty?
Here’s their section on Plain English excerpted:
Don’t use formal or long words when easy or short ones will do. Use ‘buy’ instead of ‘purchase’, ‘help’ instead of ‘assist’, ‘about’ instead of ‘approximately’ and ‘like’ instead of ‘such as’.
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:
- agenda (unless it’s for a meeting)
- collaborate (use ‘working with’)
- commit/pledge (we need to be more specific – 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’s military or software)
- dialogue (we speak to people)
- disincentivise (and incentivise)
- facilitate (instead, say something specific about how you are helping)
- foster (unless it’s children)
- impact (as a verb)
- key (unless it unlocks something. A subject/thing isn’t ‘key’ – it’s probably ‘important’)
- land (as a verb. Only use if you are talking about aircraft)
- leverage (unless in the financial sense)
- progress (as a verb – what are you actually doing?)
- promote (unless you are talking about an ad campaign or some other marketing promotion)
- slimming down (processes don’t diet – we are probably removing x amount of paperwork etc)
- strengthening (unless it’s strengthening bridges or other structures)
- tackling (unless it’s rugby, football or some other sport)
- transforming (what are you actually doing to change it?)
Avoid using metaphors – they don’t say what you actually mean and lead to slower comprehension of your content. For example: drive (you can only drive vehicles; not schemes or people)
- drive out (unless it’s cattle)
- going forward (unlikely we are giving travel directions)
- in order to (superfluous – don’t use it)
- one-stop shop (we are government, not a retail outlet)
- ring fencing