More golden rules

Back in 2013, we applauded Michael Gove for demanding clearer written communication. He set out a list of ‘golden rules’ for everyone working under him at the Department of Education.

Gove, now Justice Secretary, has laid out similar rules for his current staff.

Gove’s updated guidelines, titled ‘Ministerial Correspondence Preferences’, suggest using ‘make sure’ instead of ‘ensure’, avoiding capital letters whenever possible and using the active voice. Gove also advises on rewriting ‘anything too pompous’ and only using ‘impact’ as a noun.

The BBC’s Ben Milne, responding to Gove’s guidelines, considers ‘impact’ “…another example of business jargon ripping through the English language like a bulldozer through a forest, felling nouns which have been standing proud in their natural habitat for hundreds of years in order to build ugly new verbs – ‘to action’, ‘to task’, ‘to effect’.”

We agree and once again applaud Michael Gove for another unpopular but sensible move. He has taken a fair amount of criticism for being ‘patronising’, but most of his guidelines seem perfectly reasonable.

We can only hope that Gove’s insistence on good grammar and plain English is influential throughout the cabinet and beyond. There is still, as there has always been, an awful lot of jargon and bad writing around Government. This is clearly a step in the right direction.

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