100 Banned Words

Oops, missed this event in my ‘Days That Change The World’ diary, but apparently it was National Plain English Day yesterday, 11 December 2007. To mark the
occasion, the Local Government Association (LGA) published a list of
100 words that public bodies should not use if they want to communicate
effectively with local people.

Local government leaders say that unless councils talk to residents
in a language that they can understand, then the work they do becomes
inaccessible and reduces the chances of people getting involved in
their local issues. The list can be found here, but is replicated below. For anyone remotely familiar with ‘Govspeak’, this is a timely intervention by the Plain English lobby. It’s just a pity that something so obvious has to be published at all! (NB. Not quite sure why ‘welcome’ is on the list??)

The LGA’s top 100 ‘banned words’

  1. ambassador
  2. agencies
  3. beacon
  4. best practice
  5. bottom-up
  6. CAAs
  7. can do culture
  8. capacity
  9. capacity building
  10. cascading
  11. cautiously welcome
  12. champion
  13. citizen empowerment
  14. community engagement
  15. conditionality
  16. consensual
  17. contestability
  18. core message
  19. core value
  20. coterminosity
  21. coterminous
  22. cross-cutting
  23. customer
  24. democratic mandate/legitimacy
  25. distorts spending priorities
  26. early win
  27. empowerment
  28. engagement
  29. engaging users
  30. enhance
  31. evidence base
  32. external challenge
  33. facilitate
  34. fast-track
  35. flexibilities and freedoms
  36. framework
  37. fulcrum
  38. good practice
  39. governance
  40. guidelines
  41. holistic
  42. holistic governance
  43. improvement levers
  44. incentivising
  45. income/funding streams
  46. initiative
  47. joined up
  48. joint working
  49. LAAs
  50. level playing field
  51. localities
  52. meaningful consultation/dialogue
  53. MAAs
  54. menu of options
  55. multi-agency
  56. multidisciplinary
  57. outcomes
  58. output
  59. participatory
  60. partnerships
  61. pathfinder
  62. peer challenge
  63. performance network
  64. place shaping
  65. predictors of beaconicity
  66. preventative services
  67. priority
  68. process driven
  69. quick hit
  70. quick win
  71. resource allocation
  72. revenue streams
  73. risk based
  74. scaled-back
  75. scoping
  76. seedbed
  77. service users
  78. shared priority
  79. signpost
  80. single point of contact
  81. slippage
  82. social contracts
  83. stakeholder
  84. step change
  85. strategic/overarching
  86. streamlined
  87. subsidiary
  88. sustainable
  89. sustainable communities
  90. symposium
  91. synergies
  92. tested for soundness
  93. third sector
  94. top-down
  95. transformational
  96. transparency
  97. value-added
  98. vision
  99. visionary
  100. welcome


  1. Dave Briggs said:

    What in God’s name is wrong with ‘engagement’?!

    December 12, 2007
  2. Steve Dale said:

    I could probably take a poll of married men and get you an answer :o)

    December 12, 2007
  3. Ed said:

    ‘Engagement’ is a tricky word much mis-used. If you read cscape’s latest survey on customer engagement you will find that many people think it is a different thing.

    Also – blimey what a list! I am going to have to watch my buzzword happy mouth… Years ago, during boom1.0, while writing a website proposal for the NHS, i had a dream that I was in the final interview panel and the interviewer leaned forward and asked…

    “So… Ed, tell me… what exactly is ‘interactive, interactive, interactivity?”

    First thing i did the next morning was count how many times I had used the word!

    December 12, 2007
  4. Steve Dale said:

    Ed – thanks for the feedback (and apologies to Dave for my flippant comment on ‘Engagement’). I guess we all start to adopt the jargon or grammar of the people we’re in day to day contact with. The fact we have this list would infer that public sector employees don’t often have dialogue with ordinary citizens – and if they do, we don’t know what they’re talking about. Unfortunately I also see this ‘Govspeak’ on Government and Local Authority web sites, and the newsletters that my own council regularly send out. No wonder politicians and councillors have trouble ‘engaging’ citizens when we’re not all talking the same language!

    December 12, 2007
  5. Pete said:

    Mmm – how does “Leveraging and evangelising the benefits of Social Media applications and Web2.0 technology for more effective networking, collaboration and knowledge sharing in and between public and private sector organisations” go down?

    December 22, 2007
  6. Steve Dale said:

    Brilliant Pete – you’ve managed to pick a sentence for which not one word is on the ‘banned list’. However, I’m not sure you’ve got the copyright…could have sworn I’ve seen this somewhere before!! :o)

    December 24, 2007

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