I’m beginning to think that somewhere on a Whitehall building there’s a shiny brass plaque with the words, “Ministry of Hollow Phrases” on it. (It’s probably next door to the Ministry of Silly Walks.) Sadly, the former is nowhere near as amusing as its neighbour. Instead it’s a byword for incomprehensible nonsense, or, to be more succinct, clap-trap.
It’s surely the place where politicians and civil servants etc are taught to spout an increasing number of vacuous phrases in media interviews, phrases they believe allow them to sound positive and fill some airtime, but are actually meaningless.
– “We have plans and processes in place to deal with this kind of situation.” This was trotted out a lot recently when the Didcot B power station caught fire.
– “Going forward lessons will be learned from this.” Here’s a sentence invariably uttered when the results of a child abuse inquiry are published. Following a tragic incident, it sounds particularly impersonal and cliched. It’s a worn-out phrase, where the subtext is, “The only lesson to be learned is that once more we’ve failed to learn the last lesson.” In other words, “We’ve got it wrong again…back to the drawing board.” How much better it would be if they said something along the lines of, “I’m taking immediate action by doing xyz…” And as for the phrase “Going forward…”, ditch it altogether.
– “We’re actively recruiting.” I’m not sure how you recruit inactively, but, “We want people to come and work for us,” sounds more human and positive.
Then there was the doctor I heard on national radio this week who said that his hospital treated patients “for the best outcomes”. What he failed to recognise is that none of his patients will be asking him, “Will you treat me for the best outcome?”; they’ll be saying, “Are you going to make me better doc?”.
Not only does all this geek-speak mean important messages are lost and essential time is wasted, it also makes those who spout it sound out of touch and remote – not a great position to be in, especially if it’s taxpayers who keep you in the job that gives you this channel to address the nation in the first place.
So if you want to come across as human, start by sounding human.
Here at HarveyLeach we’re confident you won’t catch us trotting out these mindless phrases.
We have plans and processes in place to ensure we don’t.