Not plain language: Judge lambasts government agency for gobbledegook

A High Court judge has questioned whether the head of Maritime New Zealand broke the law by axing a Nelson company as a safe ship monitor.

Bad language is mentioned:

Mrs Reynolds attended the injunction and said Justice Miller criticised MNZ for language that was "pure consultant speak ... and meaningless".

It's not unreasonable to infer, from the context, that fancy language could have been used deliberately. Now that's not the norm, in my experience.

Gobbledegook usually results from habit, carelessness or misconceptions about good business writing—don't you agree? I think it's reasonable to assume that most officials are not motivated by an evil desire to hoodwink the public with long words. But in this case, the thought may cross your mind.

News item in Judge queries legality of move by Maritime NZ


Dec 10, 2009 • Posted by Low visionary

I think that people often live and work in their own silos, and they forget about the real life experience of everyday people who don’t live in Wellington. they are also often impressed by their own gravitas. It can be a trap for all of us sadly.

Dec 11, 2009 • Posted by rachel

As you say, it’s a trap for us all — I just happen to be focusing on public servants, because gobbledegook is undemocratic. But there’s good news too: when a government agency develops a culture of plain language, the difference is phenomenal. Those web sites show what web sites are for.

Dec 10, 2009 • Posted by Bright Wings

Public servants seem fearful that something written in simple, plain English lacks the gravitas of long, important-sounding words and sentences.

So, “setting up a new client” becomes, in 18pt upper-case Times Roman, “Methodology for the implementation of new departmental clients in terms of the Somethingorother Act 2005.”

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