Dodging the jargon minefield
In this job, you have to become something of an expert in decoding legal jargon, hyperbole and dodgy statistics.
In the murky world of planning applications, the lowly reporter is required to fight their way through a barrage of councilese from intricate section 106 agreements to phrases like “Sustainability and Resilience to Climate Change and Sustainable Transport and Construction”. What?
You also have to get your head around the acronyms scattered throughout council documents just waiting to trip you up.
“In paragraph 12 of BDC’s report, the NPPF states that the AONB should not be endangered to allow for an LAP in accordance with core strategy policies CS15, CS19 and CS21.”
Another area I’ve noticed this hideous tendency for councilese is in public consultations.
The now halted consultation into specialist support centres was an exemplary perpetrator.
From what I understand, the options included decommissioning (closing), amalgamating (merging) reconfiguring (cutting) and redeploying (see above).
I suppose councilese is supposed to soften the harsh reality of the proposals which would inevitably involve the closure or reduction of a service for one of the most vulnerable and deserving groups in our society.
And it’s not just councils – PR companies regularly employ the same tactic.
People seem to think that if they type out an email in capitals, it makes it more of a story.
“THIS IS SUCH A GREAT NEWS STORY: IF I JUST KEEP TYPING IN CAPS, YOU WON’T REALISE IT’S ACTUALLY RUBBISH”.
We know your game.
I also enjoy those who have a different take on the meaning of ‘news’.
“News: Almost 40 per cent of British men are reading women’s magazines.”
I’m not sure what that is, but I’m fairly sure it isn’t news.
A few weeks ago, we had an email from someone struggling with the spelling of one Suffolk town.
“Ipswitch searches for new singing sensation,” it read. Was it just a mistake in the headline, I thought?
Sadly, it was not and for 10 more paragraphs we were told how the residents of Ipswitch could become vocal stars.
In the grand scheme of things, these mistakes are pretty minor and inevitable for all writers trying to wrestle with the pitfalls of the English language on a daily basis.
As someone who is undoubtedly guilty of the odd spelling mistake, I can sympathise with the disappointment of spotting an error in print, but we do try our best.
As the general election nears, something everyone should be eagle-eyed for, aside from spelling, is our prospective and incumbent politicians dipping the issues at the heart of the country into the political spin machine.
As voters, we should question everything: is that statistic reliable? Is that promise attainable? Is that policy realistic or is it a vote-inducing pipe dream?
Channel Four has launched a useful fact-checking blog which aims to go beyond the spin and get to the facts behind many of the grand claims.
Whichever party you support, polls indicate that this election is going to be nail-bitingly close, so making your voice heard is more important than ever.