Clear as mud

This has surely got to be one of the greatest pieces of management-speak ever, from the Chief Executive of one the Welsh rugby regions.

“The Ospreys are adequately funded for the foreseeable future and will continue to seek a more equitable distribution model which, at the moment, is weighted towards subjective criterion capable of improper manipulation, rather than an objective formula based on impartially quantifiable metrics and success.”

It’s utterly baffling, but clearly designed in a desperate attempt to make the speaker sound much more intelligent and sage-like than he actually is. You can imagine that person expecting everyone to be stood around, stroking their imaginary goatee beards, nodding intensely like lackeys at a medieval court.

But it says nothing, and in truth, I’m not even sure it means anything. It wouldn’t be out of place in W1A or Twenty Twelve. It reminds me of some of the fantastic question dodging that all politicians regularly employ, which can only be cut through by someone with the dogged persistence of a Jon Snow or Jeremy Paxman (“did you threaten to overrule him?”)

Since 1979, The Campaign for Plain English have been campaigning against gobbledygook, jargon and misleading public information. They have helped many government departments and other official organisations with their documents, reports and publications, often making a mockery of what is written in an attempt to obfuscate the general public.

The problem for many organisations now is that the written word no longer just appears on the printed page but across all forms of media platform. The issue then is that, although the message can be the same, it has to be adapted to the medium that it is being used in. Whereas a traditional webpage, read on a laptop or desktop, can get away with being lengthy or wordy (occasionally), one designed for an app or mobile device needs to be pithy and shorter, and not just because the reader is assumed to have a lower boredom threshold.

Any piece of communication needs to grab the attention, deliver the message it is intending to and engage with the target audience. You don’t do that my inserting fancy phrases or long words in an attempt to look clever, you do it by understanding your target audience and writing appropriate content.

Anything else would leave me anaspeptic, frasmotic, even compunctuous to have caused you such pericombobulation.

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