Plain Language Commission . Clear English Standard


  1. Fall of Troy
  2. Subeditors a dying breed, says new website
  3. Plain language and the courts
  4. Deceptive language – food from fake farms
  5. Pikestaff 75 – read it now
  6. Jottings
  7. Jargon for grown-ups
  8. English to be Latin of EU?
  9. Large amount of amounts
  10. ‘The reason is because’
  11. Clichés – ‘wash down’, again
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News & views

Taking issue with euphemisms

[29 July 2012] The relentless stream of bile from (some/many/most) Twitter users was temporarily halted recently when the website went down for four hours. It led to this greeting as they tried to log on:

 ‘Users may be experiencing issues accessing Twitter. Our engineers are currently working to resolve the issue.’

That’s what’s so good about ‘issue’. It’s a universal whitewash word covering ‘problem’, ‘difficulty’, ‘fault’, ‘concern’, and ‘breakdown’. Need a word to express a precise message? Don’t bother – ‘issue’ takes away the pain of thinking.

See also ‘icon’, ‘iconic’, ‘deliverables’, ‘fiscal consolidation’, ‘extraordinary rendition’ (origin US, meaning moving the enemy without legal process to a country where they’ll be thumbscrewed), ‘underperforming assets’, ‘dilution’ (origin UK, meaning mistreatment of Mau Mau suspects by British forces in the 1950s), ‘collateral damage’ (killing civilians) and ‘quantitative easing’ (ie, printing loads of money so that savings lose their value).

One government minister who prefers jargonistic guff to plain language is Philip Hammond, defence secretary. He said recently that Army changes would ‘deliver the greatest possible military effect within the manpower envelope available’, that he was confident he could ‘improve the tooth-to-tail ratio’, and that the Army could ‘deliver its outputs’ over the long term rather than at a ‘spot-point in time’.

Oh well, at least he didn’t say this would all happen ‘going forward’. [MC]

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