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Thursday, 29 May 2008

Woe! Cliché and jargon pollute the world

About 60 years ago George Orwell wrote a fine essay called “Politics and the English language” which was an attempt to explain why politicians’ speeches were so boring.

Nothing much has changed since, except that now almost everybody seems to have caught the politicians’ nasty habits

Orwell gave six rules for better writing, which included:

It you can cut a word out, do so.
Never use a long word if a short one will do.
Avoid cliché and jargon.

One of my clients is a compulsive jargon-meister. I keep reminding him of these simple rules - I even run a regular seminar for him on the subject - but it doesn’t help since he doesn't attend. Today he ruined my appetite for breakfast by sending me a piece that described someone as a “delivery vehicle”.

Then my old friend Glenmore Trenear-Harvey, bon viveur and intelligence expert, compounded the problem by sending me something so bad it is almost farcical. It is part of a message from the Henry Jackson society. Almost every word is a cliché.

It reads:

Choppy waters ahead for Brown

Gordon Brown's beleaguered government recently greenlit a new £4bn aircraft carrier project. However this should not detract from the fact that the British military remains chronically underfunded.

The nastiest thing in that, perhaps, is "greenlit" for "approved". The man who wrote it should be taken out and shot for vile, unnatural cruelty to the English language.

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