As journalists we receive a steady stream of emails and press releases, most containing information that is of the public interest but often containing fashionable buzzwords that the our readers simply don’t understand.
It has become a daily but necessary battle to translate this ‘jargonese’ into everyday English so our readers can understand what they’re reading.
Even the Local Government Association (LGA) has acknowledged local authorities’ overuse of buzzwords and published a list of 100 jargon terms that it urged councils to stop using back in 2008.
These included: core value, community engagement, service users, value-added, pathfinder, coterminosity (even Word spell check doesn’t like this one), symposium and synergies.
After releasing the list, LGA chairman Margaret Eaton said: “The public sector must not hide behind impenetrable jargon and phrases.
“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.”
“The public sector must not hide behind impenetrable jargon and phrases”
Out of curiosity, I went straight to my local county council’s website to see if they had taken heed of this invaluable advice but unsurprisingly, the answer was no, not really.
A simple search showed most of the terms were still littered across its web pages; there was even a section headed ‘community engagement’ – one of the top 100 banned jargon words – along with a list of ‘community engagement officers’.
Another visible trend is libraries being referred to as ‘gateways’ and village halls as ‘community hubs’.
So what is the obsession with using grandiose jargon?
Yes, maybe it makes these facilities and services sound a bit more modern and hi-tech, but what is the point if the authorities own ‘service users’ don’t understand the words themselves?
If you stopped the average man on the street and asked him to define the terms ‘gateway’, ‘community engagement officer’ or ‘community hub’, I’d put money on there being a blank expression on his face in response.
While authorities persist in using jargon, for journalists and content writers it just means we have to be more diligent in our interpretation of these alien terms, not only for the benefit of our readers but in order to defend the English language.