Friday 23 February 2018

Jargon gong forecast for Met Office

Public bodies have been left red-faced following an awards ceremony looking at the use of 'gobbledygook'
Public bodies have been left red-faced following an awards ceremony looking at the use of 'gobbledygook'

The Met Office is the unlucky recipient of a booby prize for its baffling use of "gobbledygook" at an awards ceremony.

The weather service has been singled out during the Plain English Campaign Awards for its jargon-filled description of a new style of weather forecast it introduced in November.

The Met Office said the forecast would be for "empowering people to make their own decisions" by using the "probabilities of precipitation".

The new American-style system gives the percentage chances of precipitation, rather than telling people that rain will be "likely" or "very likely".

The awards are organised by the Plain English Campaign, a pressure group based in Derbyshire which aims to persuade many UK and worldwide organisations to communicate with the public in plain language. It fights bureaucratic language, small print and the legalese of official information.

A Met Office spokesman said: "The word precipitation has a specific meaning and by using it we are helping the nation to learn useful weather terms in a subject we talk about every day. Precipitation covers a wide range of stuff falling from the sky including rain, sleet, snow, hail, drizzle and even cats and dogs - but sums it up in just one word."

Among other winners of the infamous Golden Bull booby prize is the British Fencing Association, which says on its website it "will innovate to ensure that we are successful on the piste".

The Office for National Statistics also scooped an award for the listing on its website of "Standard Industrial Classifications" that businesses must identify, one of which is "activities of extraterritorial organisations".

The ceremony, which coincides with National Plain English Day, is held at the Cavern Club, Liverpool, and features guest speaker Pauline Daniels, a comedian from the city. Chrissie Maher, founder of the Plain English Campaign, said: "I wanted the campaign to give people the confidence to push back on the growing mountain of confusion and meaningless language in public information."

Several organisations were being presented with awards for their use of clear and concise English, including Channel 4's Fact Check blog ( and the website of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust ( - an organisation which supports women affected by cervical cancer.

Press Association

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