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Rafts of jargon deliver overarching frameworks and challenges

[17 June 2014] In a newspaper article, Jemima Lewis writes of the heap of jargon-filled drivel she had to read from teachers, catering companies, dieticians, charities, union reps and academic researchers while helping her husband compile a report for the Government on school food.

‘About 7% of it could be classed as mild gibberish: you could understand the gist, but the specifics remained vague. Jargon and important-sounding clichés were often used to disguise the absence of any useful ideas. “Rafts of measures” were always required. There was much talk of “driving pictures of excellence”, as if one could load these mysterious pictures into the back of the car and motor them around the country.

‘And every now and then we’d get sent something like this: “The Diffusion of Innovations Model provided an organising framework to present emergent themes. With the exception of triability (not relevant in the context of mandated guidelines/policies), the key attributes of the Diffusion of Innovations Model (relative advantage, compatibility and observability) provided a robust framework for understanding themes associated with implementation of mandated guidelines.”’

Lewis continues: ‘...like the courtiers of the naked emperor, the dietician [who sent it] wanted us to believe that she could see something there. Thus is the virus of gibberish spread – by well-meaning people too embarrassed to admit they can’t understand the incomprehensible.’

The National Health Service, like the education system, has its share of puffed-up writing. Here is NHS England’s director of patient safety weighing in with a 66-word sentence about ‘never events’ – ie, events that should never be allowed to happen: ‘In order to achieve our overarching goal to eradicate never events, we will need to engage and collaborate with organisations and bodies across the healthcare spectrum including patient groups, trusts, royal colleges, specialist societies, and regulators, to not only ensure the initiatives we develop are accessible and achievable, but also that they can be used as standard practice across NHS peri-operative care, education, training and regulation.’ [cont] 

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