One of the dangers of working in sustainability is the tendency to absorb and over-use jargon. So it was with some delight this morning that I discovered a fantastic rant by Marina Hyde of the Guardian, railing against the use of the word “stakeholders” by the headhunters for the English Cricket Board.
Hyde points out that it’s not just language pedants who loathe “management-speak”. The BBC actually did a survey on the subject: “stakeholders” and “skillset” came up at the top of the list of detested phrases.
Why should such words be avoided? Because they dull language into sameness; because all too often, they are used lazily; most importantly, because they simply turn off lots of readers, even if they don’t quite know why they’re suddenly yawning. For communication to be effective, our writing needs to be fresh; without fresh and effective communication, we cannot do justice to the ideas we are trying to sell.
Using such words breaks two of George Orwell’s rules for good writing, outlined in his celebrated essay Politics and the English Language, rules which I reproduce below:
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.