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UK bans bad biz lingo in government communications

Posted by Kitty McConnell on August 27, 2013

The British government has banned civil servants from using jargon in official communications with the public through the Gov.uk website. The U.K. Government Digital Services “Design Principles” style guide went into effect earlier this year when all civil service departments were unified under the new Gov.uk site, according to the Daily Mail

The U.K.'s public workers have been put on notice by the digital newspeak police that “plain English” is now mandatory in online "written content" (they probably meant 'writing').

The new communication rules forbid employees from using long or formal words “when easy or short ones will do.” Examples include using ‘buy’ not ‘purchase’, ‘help’ not ‘assist’, ‘about’  not ‘approximately’ and ‘like’ instead of ‘such as’.

The style guide warns government employees against using buzzwords or jargon, lest they “lose trust from our users” because of empty, meaningless text.

The following words have been sacked:

--agenda (unless it is for a meeting)

--advancing

--collaborate (use ‘working with’)

--combating

--commit/pledge (we need to be more specific – we’re either doing something or we’re not)

--countering

--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)

--disincentivise (and incentivise)

--empower

--facilitate (instead, say something specific about how you are helping)

--focusing

--foster (unless it is children)

--impact (as a verb)

--initiate

--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)

--liaise

--overarching

--progress (as a verb – what are you actually doing?)

--promote (unless you are talking about an ad campaign or some other marketing promotion)

--robust

--slimming down (processes don’t diet – we are probably removing x amount of paperwork, etc)

--streamline

--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?)

--utilise

Commonly-used business metaphors have also been sacked:

--drive (you can only drive vehicles; not schemes or people)

--drive out (unless it is 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)

 

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