I don’t fully agree with plain language campaigns as regards legal documents – I guess I go along with those who say that the law has to be precise enough and should be interpreted by experts – i.e. lawyers and the judiciary rather than non-specialists – but I certainly think that a lot can be (and is being) done to make legal language more accessible where possible.
The other day I came across a wonderful little tool called the Gobbledygook Generator. It made me start thinking about the fact that these days business-speak may just be getting more unintelligible than legalese. Have a look at this BBC article from 2008 – just a couple of tasters for you:
“I work in one of those humble call centres for a bank. Apparently, what we’re doing at the moment is sprinkling our magic along the way. It’s a call centre, not Hogwarts.”
“At a large media company where I once worked, the head of human resources – itself a weaselly neologism for personnel – told us that she would be cascading down new information to staff. What she meant was she was going to send them a memo. It was one of the reasons I resigned – that, and the fact that the chief exec persisted on referring to the company as a really cool train set.”
You may also enjoy this extensive glossary – The Ridiculous Business Jargon Dictionary. A few gems include: “wallpapering the fog”, “across the piece”, “keep your powder dry” and the verb “to peanut butter out”.
What are your views on plain language? Have you ever been confronted with business-speak? Worse still, have you had to translate it?