Officialese is a form of writing that is widely used in all parts of government and by so-called officials and politicians the world over. It's the opposite of plain language which is dangerous to use because it is clear and concise. If you are thinking of entering public service, you need to learn some of the basics of this form of writing, so here is a quick guide to get you going.

To Start With - A Real Example

As in recent years, we are proposing floor damping arrangements which will ensure that all groups of authorities receive a minimum grant increase. However, for 2005/06 we have removed the arrangement of funding the floor through the imposition of a ceiling. Instead, all authorities set to receive a grant increase above the level of the floor will have their grant scaled back to pay for the cost of the floor. As a part of the floor damping scheme this year, the base position for calculating the year-on-year increase will be the adjusted 2004/05 grant plus capital adjustment plus Amending Report adjustment. The Amending Report Adjustment ensures that authorities that 'lose' under the 2003/04 Amending Report will still receive at least the floor increase.

The Rules

Rule 1: Use As Many Words As You Can

Why write "help" when you can impress your colleagues and the more gullible members of the public by writing "to aid in the implementation of the aforementioned"? Hint: the more you can make your words monopolize people's attention, the less they'll have to spare for the reality behind the content of your statements.

Rule 2:. Make Them Long and Impressive - they might even think you've been educated!

You too can sound like Stephen Byers by writing "A person carrying on employment business shall not request or directly or indirectly receive any fee from a second person for providing services (whether by the provision of information or otherwise) for the purposes of finding or seeking to find a third person, with a view to the second person becoming employed by the first person and acting for and under the control of the third person."

Rule 3: Increase Sentence Length by Eliminating Pronouns

Before: "Sit down, turn your computer on wait for it to boot. At the login screen, type your userid and password." After: "When you sit down at your computer, turn your computer on and wait for your computer to boot. When your computer brings up the login screen, type your userid and password to continue with the operation of your computer."

Rule 4: Use Passive Voice for Depersonalization

Before: "It is felt that that the elimination of fifteen parking spaces can realign the authority with it's property's leasing arrangement." Doing this always leaves the reader wondering: by whom? On what authority? Who is accountable? The key here is that the answer to the last point is nobody.

Rule 5: Erase Consciousness with Clichés

A great way to add to sentence length is to include plenty of worn-out cliches such as cutting edge, 24/7, at the end of the day.

Rule 6: Kill Truth with Euphemisms

Such as: recession (depression), downsizing (mass firing), reorg (mass firing), budget constraints (mass firing plus elimination of key activities), expert opinion (often a contradiction in terms), democratic (mindless popular appeal), perception--as in, "The perception is that…" (intolerance of disagreement), positive attitude (denial), team player (yes-man), customizable (can be made to fit at high cost), successful (materially comfortable regardless of mental health or capacity for joy), melting pot (invalidation of differences), global leadership (imperialism), Diverse (total mix-up).

Rule 7: Render Nouns Down into Verbs

To incent for example. More frequently used in the US but since some UK officials like to puff thenselves up by using US style language (trendy official - me) it's creaping across the pond now.

Rule 8: Write in Pulpit Rhythms

As preachers of every era know, repetition hypnotizes the beholder. We will ramp up our efforts, we will persist, we will triumph… Such cadences fall on the ear and eye like an odorless anesthetic, dulling the awareness of distinctions, contradictions or inconsistencies. Martin Luther King could use them superbly to make his points - officials cant't

Rule 9: Plenty Of Sacred Cows

Vacuous people will think you're unusually sincere and idealistic if you can work in a few of these: liberty, freedom, justice, truth, leadership, future, progress, growth, values, vision, mission, spirit, equality, solidarity, diversity, global, integrity, order, goal, rebirth, security, defense, unity, transform, evolve, innovative.

Rule 10: In General….

If you can appeal ever more relentlessly in your writing to higher, faster, better, broader, more manic, more productive, more sportslike, more warlike, you've gone a long way toward dumbfounding the illiterate while erecting an impressive shield over what remains of your individuality. Congratulations! You've mastered the art of vague, prepackaged, mass-produced verbal obfuscation.


Of course, you can simply use meaningless Latin which will have about as much meaning. Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat, vel illum dolore eu feugiat nulla facilisis at vero eros et accumsan et iusto odio dignissim qui blandit praesent luptatum zzril delenit augue duis dolore te feugait nulla facilisi. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat.

Serendipity of the Alphabet