Neil Thompson’s Lessons for Living – Don’t speak (or write) officialese

The level of formality at which we speak or write is known technically as the ‘register’. Sometimes it is appropriate to communicate fairly informally (informal register), while at others a more formal register is what is needed. However, some people confuse formal register with officialese. Perhaps this is a confidence issue: feeling not very confident about using a formal register may lead to stilted language use. Officialese is a style of language that is full of clichés and jargon terms and is unnecessarily convoluted. It is the opposite of plain language. It is perfectly possible to write formally within the bounds of plain language without resorting to officialese. In any form of communication, the major emphasis needs to be on clarity: am I getting across the point(s) I need to? Officialese stands in the way of clarity and is therefore no substitute for formal but clear language.

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