'Optimising webinar trialogues for the wellderly': Discuss

Ever considered the tonality of the PowerPoint presentation you are submitting for the webinar on local policy disbenefits to the wellderly? You might have done if you work for the public sector.

An annual survey by the Local Government Association has found 250 "impenetrable" phrases being used in central and local government departments, the European Union and quangos.

Webinar (a seminar conducted over the internet), wellderly (older people who are still healthy), and goldfish bowl-facilitated conversation (a group of people gathered on chairs in a circle who sit and discuss things – ie a meeting) were just some of the terms included on the jargon-busting list.

But Neil Taylor, creative director of language consultancy The Writer, said publishing a list would not stop confusing terminology being used.

"This kind of language is annoying and often ridiculous. But banning them won't help; it'll just get replaced with another set of nonsense, which may be one of the reasons the LGA has been producing this list for several years now."

Other terms included tonality (the tone of your documents or how they sound, coined by the same people who use "utilise"), clienting (working with clients or people. Also called "peopling") and disbenefits (the opposite of benefits).

Last year's LGA list included taxonomy, rebaselining and synergies. Speaking about the survey, chairman of the LGA, Margaret Eaton, said the public sector must not hide behind "impenetrable" jargon and phrases.

"Why do we have to have a 'webinar trialogue for the wellderly' when the public sector could just 'talk about caring for the elderly' instead?" she said.

She added that in the middle of a recession, failure to explain services properly could have a disastrous effect, leading to more people ending up homeless or bankrupt. "We do not pretend to be perfect, but as this list shows, we are striving to make sure that people get the chance to understand what services we provide."

Mr Taylor said a change in the culture of the public sector was needed to stop jargon. "Even the quote from the Chairman of the LGA about this list talks about people getting 'access to services'. People don't really talk about 'getting access' to services; they just want to get them, and use them."

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