'Only pizzas are delivered': Public sector jargon banned in first style guide for Government announcements

Civil servants banned from using language that has kept the comedy writers from the Thick Of It in gags for years

Whitehall Editor

As the fictional permanent secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby once said: “If you ask me for a straight answer, then I shall say that, as far as we can see, looking at it by and large, taking one thing with another in terms of the average of departments, then in the final analysis it is probably true to say, that at the end of the day, in general terms, you would probably find that, not to put too fine a point on it, there probably wasn't very much in it one way or the other.”

But no more.

Britain’s cadre of real life civil servants have finally been banned from using the jargon that has kept the comedy writers from Yes Minister to the Thick Of It in gags for years.

Officials have been issued with an online style guide that tells them, for the first time, what unacceptable Whitehallese is.

Out goes ‘deliver’. Pizzas and post are delivered, it points out, not abstract concepts like ‘improvements’ or ‘priorities’.

Officials can no long ‘drive’ anything out (unless it is cattle) or ‘foster’ (unless it is children).

Tackling is also banned (unless Sir Humphrey or Terri Coverley are playing rugby or football) while the ‘key’ should always be in the lock.

Overall more than 30 terms of jargon that have crept into Government announcements and policy documents over the years have been placed off-limits.

There will be no more advancing, collaborating, combating or pledging.

People will no longer be empowered. Government will no longer facilitate while even ministers will not be focusing on areas of policy.

The style guide has been created by the team who put together the Government’s new website Gov.uk – which aims to bring together every Government service in a single format that is easy to navigate and use.

In the forward to the style guide the authors point out that this aim will be negated if everything published if full of official gobbledy gook.

“We lose trust from our users if we write government ‘buzzwords’ and jargon,” they point out.

“Often, these words are too general and vague and can lead to misinterpretation or empty, meaningless text. We can do without these words.”

Sarah Richards, who worked on the guide, said plain English was not the same a dumbing down.

“The style is about writing clearly, concisely and without jargon. Everyone can benefit from simplicity,” she wrote on a blog launching the site.

“Some people have previously seen this as ‘dumbing down’ but being open and accessible to everyone isn’t ‘dumb’ – it’s our responsibility.”

But a quick glance at recent Government press notices suggest that some officials still have something to learn.

Take this recent ‘news story’ from the Cabinet Office - the department that is also responsible for Gov.uk.

“The government is establishing a Global Learning Exchange on impact investment. Impact investment provides capital to deliver both social and financial results.

“This multi-stakeholder exchange will focus on sharing best practice on ‘what works’ in impact investing. It will provide a shared platform to debate and create ideas as well as inviting new voices to the field.

“Social impact investment has a critical role to play in helping entrepreneurs around the world to identify sustainable solutions to the most challenging social issues. The G8 Social Impact Investment Forum represents an exciting point in the development of the field – bringing together, for the first time, government, industry and civil society leaders to identify ways to catalyse the global market.”

It makes Sir Humphrey sound erudite.

But Steve Jenner from Plain English Campaign said any attempt to improve things was very welcome.

“For many years government has been presented to the public in finest government departmental gobbledygook,” he said.

“The fact that much of this is unintentionally hilarious suggests how bad things had become. 

“Plain English Campaign applauds this attempt to encourage clarity, though, and would be happy to assist any government department in this.”

Tongue firmly in cheek a Cabinet Office Spokeswoman said: “Going forward, we will be advancing a pledge to deliver and utilise clearer language on our award-winning GOV.UK.

"We are keen to foster improved cooperation to empower further the public and are delighted that the Independent has recognised this drive to deploy and leverage a streamlined vocabulary.

"But seriously, we want to get better at this, and the Content Guide is one of the reasons GOV.UK has over 1.3m users a month.”   

Jargon: What’s out

* Slimming down (processes don’t diet)

* Foster (unless it is children)

* Agenda (unless it is for a meeting)

* Commit/pledge (we’re either doing something or we’re not)

* Deliver (pizzas, post and services are delivered – not abstract concepts like ‘improvements’ or ‘priorities’)

* Deploy (unless it is military or software)

* Dialogue (we speak to people)

* Key (unless it unlocks something. A subject/thing isn’t ‘key’ – it’s probably ‘important’)

* Progress (as a verb – what are you actually doing?)

* Promote (unless you are talking about an ad campaign or some other marketing promotion)

* Strengthening (unless it’s strengthening bridges or other structures)

* Tackling (unless it is rugby, football or some other sport)

* Transforming (what are you actually doing to change it?)

* Going forward (unlikely we are giving travel directions)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
David Silva strokes home his and City's second goal
football
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas