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GovSpeak: Gobbled Up in Gobbledygook

By Ed O'Keefe

By Washington Post columnist John Kelly in his blog John Kelly's Commons:

The Declaration of Independence was very clear about what it meant. Since then, it's been pretty much downhill for government prose. Who could forget "revenue enhancement" as a synonym for "tax"?

Modern business-speak is just as bad. We talk of a product's "functionality," rather than just explain what it does. We "facilitate" things, rather than simply do them. We use "dialogue" as a verb.

Why is that some people feel compelled to use three words when one will do or choose words and phrases designed to sound intelligent but which in truth obscure and confuse?

Possibly because they invented it, the English seem especially adept at mangling the English language, especially in the public sector: the people who run cities, boroughs and counties. Now the U.K.'s Local Government Association has released a list of 200 words it thinks should be stricken from the briefs, reports and speeches of its members.

“The public sector must not hide behind impenetrable jargon and phrases," said Margaret Eaton, chairman of the Local Government Association. "Why do we have to have ‘coterminous, stakeholder engagement’ when we could just ‘talk to people’ instead?"

Why indeed. Here are a few phrases from the banned list, along with suggested replacements:

Actioned -- do
Benchmarking -- measuring
Funding Streams -- money
Interface -- talking to each other
Transactional -- Why use at all?

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By Ed O'Keefe  | March 18, 2009; 2:15 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, From The Pages of The Post  
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