Friday, 24 October 2008

Keeping it simple

One of my colleagues in my new job (which I’m doing part time while I finish off the old one) gave me a nice compliment the other day when she said that a tender submission I’d drafted was clear, easy to read and made the points it needed to make without drowning them in waffle. It was good to get that kind of feedback as I do try to avoid writing in jargon and like to minimise the level of b***s**t in my writing. But working in government and policy related fields doesn’t half make that difficult sometimes!

I’ve been working on a series of “issues papers” in my government temp job and because they’ve got to be written in a particular ‘house style’ using policy wonk language, I’m getting heartily sick of writing the same old stock phrases like “in relation to”, “in the context of”, “there are a range of issues”, “evidence suggests” etc.

I’ve also found myself coming up with all kinds of other nonsense in some of my writing, which I think must be the influence of the gobbledegook around me. Today I found myself typing the following with my very own fingers:

“The heterogenous nature of the sector leads to a differential capacity among parts of the sector to conform to regulatory requirements.”

Whaaaaaat!?!?! Thankfully I stopped myself quickly. The revised version may not be brilliant but it’s definitely an improvement.

“The sector’s diversity means that organisations have different abilities to respond to the requirements of regulation.”

It reminds me of being at uni when I became rather fond of using the word “concomitantly” just because lots of articles I read were using it (in case you’re wondering, it means “at the same time as” or “in parallel”.)

On a different note, I also came across this glorious statement in something I read today:

“Of course, one of the biggest accountability controls on NGOs is that if they do not deliver what they promise, in most cases, their revenue streams would be severed either from citizens or other donors.”

This is from an article called ‘An overview of some of the factors driving the development of self-regulation frameworks for the NGO community across the world’ which is available from here.

It nearly made me choke on the cup of tea I was drinking at the time. As a piece of blatant propaganda, I find this one hard to beat. Anyone who knows anything about the reality of the NGO sector knows that revenue streams (grants and donations to you and me) bear almost zero relationship to the effectiveness or quality of the services delivered. It shouldn’t be like that, and lots of people are working hard to change it, but that’s the way it is I'm afraid. A statement like the above is from cloud cuckoo land.

As you may have gathered, regulation of NGOs was the hot topic of research at work today!

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