Tuesday 21 January 2020

Fresh bid to cut out jargon in official use 'going forward'

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen was fond of using the phrase 'going forward' Photo: PA News
Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen was fond of using the phrase 'going forward' Photo: PA News
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

The war against gobbledygook has been intensified.

Lawyers, public and civil servants and businesspeople that use meaningless language and jargon have been warned that they are failing to be understood by ordinary people.

They are being encouraged to use simpler language.

Or to put that in gobbledygook: A key objective, ­going forward, is to enhance the drive to foster and promote the progressive use of English, as part of the agenda to tackle overly-complex phraseology, in line with pledges to strengthen and deepen dialogue with the public.

Nonsense like that is not understood by large numbers of people, according to the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), set up to encourage the use of plain English.

It conducted a survey which found half of adults have difficulty understanding official documents, with most in favour of greater use of plain English in Government and business documents.

More than one third (35pc) of people also said that they found information from the public service and from the Government challenging.

Now NALA is encouraging grater use of easily understood documents by announcing ­details of its 2016 Plain English Awards.

The awards, sponsored by law firm Mason Hayes & ­Curran, aim to reward organisations that communicate clearly and to offer free plain English training to those who don't.

NALA is in favour of following the lead of Britain's civil service which has banned the use of the sort of jargon that has kept comedy writers from 'Yes Minister' to the 'Thick of It' in gags for years.

Phrases like "going forward", so beloved by former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, have been banned by the UK civil service.

Its language experts argue that people who use the phase are unlikely to be giving travel directions.


Other phases banned include "deliver". Pizzas and post are delivered, the style guide for Britain's civil servants points out, not abstract concepts like improvements or priorities.

Officials can no longer "drive" anything out (unless it is cattle) or "foster" (unless it is children).

NALA said that many people here find jargon, especially technical and legal jargon, ­difficult to understand. The awards are free for ­businesses and organisations to enter online at www.nala.ie/plain-english-awards

The closing date is November 15.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News