Just banning council staff from using jargon will not, on its own, improve communication with ordinary people, according to an expert on language and business. Neil Taylor, the Creative Director of The Writer, welcomed the Local Government Association’s latest crackdown on unclear language but said a change of culture was needed.
The LGA has produced a list of 250 words that council staff should not use, including ‘trialogue’, ‘webinar’, ‘clienting’ and phrases such as ‘goldfish bowl facilitated conversation’. Mr. Taylor said getting rid of obviously meaningless jargon was admirable but added that the banned list would not really help. “It’ll just get replaced with another set of nonsense, which may be one of the reasons the LGA has been producing this list for several years now,” he added.
He said a better goal would be to try to change the culture of the public sector. Getting staff to think like normal people would help them to communicate with normal people. “Plain English is a step in the right direction, but it can be very uninspiring. Engaging language is the most effective,” he said.
The LGA said the words on its latest list had been taken from the European Union, central government, quangos, regional government, business management speak and public relations phrases. While there was a place for technical language, jargon had to be removed from documents and publications aimed at the public. The LGA chairman, Margaret Eaton said: “During the recession, it is vital that we explain to people in plain English how to get access to the services the public sector provides with taxpayers’ money.”