Dear Sir Humphrey
Wednesday 05 July 1995
Can you and your pinstriped chums hack it in the 21st century? The word is that Whitehall supremo Richard Wilson has ordered you to brush up on your sloppy use of English.
He's told the Home Office's 12,000 officials: "Ministers can't be bothered to read the submissions put to them by their civil servants because they are boring and full of long and complicated quotations."
(If you ask me, that sentence is a bit of a mouthful, too. But Wilson is a permanent secretary, after all, and you can't expect him to overcome all the problems of his privileged background straight away.)
In the spirit of the shock Wilson edict, here are some ground rules to cure your over-educated staff of their verbosity.
OUT go obscure quotes, especially from long-dead Greeks. (Anyway, isn't Homer a bit of a dodgy name?)
OUT goes the use of foreign languages, such as mandarinese. (As Prince Philip would say, we'll all have slitty eyes soon.)
OUT go passive verbs (whatever they are).
OUT go flowery adjectives (except for posh, swank, brutal, evil, stunning and super).
OUT go long sentences (except for criminals).
OUT go all polysyllabic words (who cares what parrots say?)
Now for the positive guidelines ...
Start as many sentences as possible with "And". (It was good enough for the New English Bible, wasn't it?)
And if that gets monotonous, try "But". It's great for those bits of "on the other hand, Minister" advice.
Use cliches with gay [is this from Homer? Ed.] abandon. The writing isn't on the wall for them yet.
Make intros short and punchy. Grab your Minister's attention with: "A horror plan for Britain's jails ..."
Remember, there's no virtue in writing measured and flowing English. It's part of that dusty past of classical education when people hadn't anything better to do than translate fairy stories from Greek and Latin.
Those were the days when people lacked all the basic facilities (television, video, satellite dish and computer screen). Now ideas that took forever to explain are available in seconds.
That's why the modern tabloids should be required reading for your staff. And it might help if you probed that silly entrance exam. It's obviously far too literate.
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
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