For anyone who may have missed my earlier blog – published 12 December 2007 – about the
Local Government Association’s publication of 100 words that public bodies should not use if they want to communicate effectively with citizens – well, it seems this has sparked some heated debate (and vitriol) from readers of the IDeA site that carried the original article.
The LGA’s list of the tope 100 ‘non-words’ included tortuous vocabulary such ‘capacity building’, ‘improvement levers’, ‘place shaping’, and democratic mandate’, as well as the more benign ‘welcome’, ‘customer’ and ‘guidelines’.
A sample of some of the more heated exchange on this article includes:
“Perhaps if the LGA concentrated more on such words rather than knocking up patronising lists like this, then people would take them seriously”, wrote another poster. “As it stands, the vast majority of the public and council officers take one look at the LGA and laugh.”
“Has there ever been a more patronising missive from the LGA?!?”
“Excuse me whilst I doff my cap m’lud! I’d call it claptrap but that’s probably a word “we wouldn’t understand“.
“The Plain English campaign (sadly aided and abetted by the LGA in this instance), I am afraid, is fast becoming a murderer of the English language”
“The variety, complexity and richness of the language is, in their eyes it seems, something to denigrate in favour of a utlilitarian approach. How very, very sad. May I suggest the LGA concentrates on educating councillors, quite a few of whom are functionally illiterate themselves?“
“Pathetic, as a person who regulary communicates with the general populace I Ihave found them to be very intelligent and on one or two occassions more informed than I. I suggest the LGA should find better ways in which to spend their time/resources and stop finding jobs for the boys.”
If you haven’t added your views to the original article I’m afraid it’s too late – the IDeA have closed the item for any further comments, but I’ll be happy to collect any other thoughts/views/comments and forward to the appropriate people at IDeA and LGA.
If anyone feels particularly motivated to do something practical to improve communication and understanding between public bodies who like to hide behind jargon, look no further than the Local Government Glossary wiki – an initiative that Dave Briggs and I started last year to encourage some on-line collaboration between local authorities in providing plain English descriptions for some of the more obscure terms used in the public sector. You need to register on Wikispaces if you want edit rights to the glossary.
Stephen is Director and founder of Collabor8now Ltd, an organization focussed on developing collaborative environments (e.g. Communities of Practice) and the integration of knowledge management tools and processes to support business improvement. He is a certified knowledge manager with the Knowledge Management Institute (KMI) and the author of several published research papers on collaborative behaviours and information technology.