GOOD CLEAR ENGLISH

I certainly do not want to start a ‘Pedant’s Revolt’ about split infinitives and confused pronouns etc, but the use of clear, simple English is not a trivial matter. We are in the state we are because political utterances are concerned not with reality but with appearance, and this routinely involves the misuse of language in order to deceive or obscure. The same applies where there is an inability to think clearly about problems or ideas. That politicians actually take a pride in their linguistic skill in avoiding answering questions says much about why our public life is so degraded. In what other job would such behaviour be regarded as anything other than dishonest and despicable?

Have a browse through the suggestions below. Please feel free to add/delete/ignore as you wish. We all use some of these, and similar, from time to time, so prevalent are they in modern political, management and broadcasting usage, but most are ugly, many are redundant and some are just plain wrong. Ironically, those intended to make the user seem learned usually give an air of pomposity and ignorance, while those intended to make the user seem ‘trendy’ or ‘cool’ do precisely the opposite. Nevertheless, such usage, in obscuring as opposed to clarifying, is a pernicious, almost Orwellian, trend and should be opposed.

Generally it is always a good idea to be ruthless in editing your own work and you might find the brief advice given to me many years ago worthwhile: if possible, use a short word rather than a long one and two words rather than three.

All that said, if you have a good idea – let’s hear it – badly written or not.

Suggestion Comment
9/11, 7/7 see ‘Terrorism’ An insult to the murdered
24/7 permanently / continually lazy and very ugly
At the end of the day in / at the end verbose and ugly
At this/that moment in time now / then verbose and very ugly
Ball park estimate estimate an estimate is approximate
Beg the question prompt the question invariably wrong usage – see petitio principii
Billion milliard / thousand million see last part of Economy
Blueprint plan / scheme blueprints haven’t been used in decades!
Blue sky thinking thinking / originality fatuous jargon
Bottom line result / consequence fatuous jargon – ugly
Carbon footprint carbon emissions inaccurate and patronizing metaphor.
Chair Chairman / Chairwoman ask, ‘are you wheel, arm, or rocking?’
Chill out zone relaxation / rest area just appalling
Clear blue water between difference between fatuous jargon
Closure peace / acceptance inappropriate euphemism – wrong
Decimate devastate / destroy invariably wrong usage – to decimate is to reduce by a tenth
Defining moment important / crucial event pompous and meaningless
Down the road later fatuous jargon
Downside disadvantage ludicrous – how can a side be up or down?
Downsize reduce euphemism for sacking – ugly
Evidence-led decision decision moronic redundancy
Faux false / mock French, and pretentious
Flag up indicate / warn about fatuous jargon
Free up free (see ‘up’) ugly and redundant
Game plan plan fatuous jargon
Get round the table & negotiate negotiate ask ‘Is this table, tide, time or operating?’
Go the extra mile try harder fatuous jargon
Guidelines guidance Ugly
Head up lead / warn about (see ‘up’) fatuous jargon
Heads up (noun) meeting Ditto
Heads up (verb) pay attention Ditto
In real terms in reality Ugly
Joined up thinking thinking pointless metaphor – very ugly
Kick off start Fine, for a football match, embarrassing would-be ‘cool’ for a Radio 3 concert
Level playing field equal terms / conditions ludicrous metaphor – how many sloping playing fields have you seen?
Move the goalposts change the terms / conditions preposterous metaphor
No win situation too many disadvantages fatuous jargon
Offer on the table offer see ‘Get round the table . . .’
On a score of with / having a score of wrong use of ‘on’ – quizmaster/sports reporter illiteracy
Ongoing continuing Ugly
On message, on song compliant very ugly
Out of the loop no longer involved fatuous jargon
Package of proposals / measures proposals / measures redundancy
Point up indicate fatuous jargon
Pushing the envelope exceeding normal limits wrong usage and appallingly ugly
Put in place start fatuous jargon
Put to bed finish / complete grotesque metaphor
Raze to the ground raze wrong – to raze is to level to the ground
Reality checking checking pointless – and ugly
Refute reject / deny usually wrong – to refute is to disprove
Revisit re-examine pointless and ugly
Ring fenced reserved / allocated for ludicrous metaphor
Risk return result fatuous jargon
Road map plan / scheme ludicrous and inappropriate metaphor
Rolled out distributed / introduced ludicrous metaphor
Safe haven haven redundancy – a haven is a safe place
See the big picture take a broader / overall view ludicrous metaphor
Share this with you tell you ugly
Silo mentality narrow thinking ludicrous metaphor
Smoking gun convincing evidence ludicrous metaphor
Spin doctor liar (professional) disgusting euphemism
Steep part of the learning curve very difficult appalling metaphor
Stressed out stressed / tense redundancy – ugly
Take on board understand / accept fatuous jargon
Temperaturewise temperatures (will be etc) weatherman slovenliness – ugly and unnecessary
Terrorism see Terrorism
Think outside the box think originally / creatively appalling metaphor
Top stories main stories newsreader claptrap – would-be ‘cool’ – embarrassing
Tranche part / portion French, and pretentious
Transparency Openness pointless metaphor (also usually means ‘opacity’)
Up (as train up, park up, free up etc) train, park, free etc redundant and ugly
Upside advantage see Downside
Weatherwise weather (will be, etc) ugly and unnecessary
When all is said and done in / at the end verbose and ugly
Window of opportunity opportunity fatuous jargon
Win win situation no disadvantages fatuous jargon – very ugly
Working in partnership with working with redundancy – ugly
Zero tolerance policy towards we will not tolerate . . . fatuous jargon