Communicator (communicator) wrote,


Ruth Kelly, head of British education, is the ostensible author of an article in the Guardian about changes in the education system. I'm ignoring the content and looking at the style. It positively offends me. I guarantee Kelly did not write it. My job means I have to read a lot of guff written by civil servants and this is prime guff. There are some interesting if contentious ideas in there but they are buried by the verbiage.

Any comments on the turgid prose welcome, but I just want to mention this delightful sentence:

We want to effectively make the old school leaving age a thing of the past.

I bloody hate that sentence.

I don't mind split infinitives, but I would avoid them in this context, because I know they offend some readers.

I dislike adverbs in general. Delete the adverb from almost any sentence and strengthen it.

I particularly (adverb) hate the word 'effectively'. People use it like pepper and salt. I read sentences like 'We will effectively aim at strategic action towards best practice' and the like. Makes me puke. 'Effectively' is almost always redundant. If you think about it, how could one propose ineffective action towards an end?

Aha - but - in this case 'effectively' isn't redundant. In this sentence it means 'not literally'. So what she is trying to say makes sense - something like this: 'We want people to remain in education longer. However we aren't going to use legislation to force them. Instead we hope to make continuing education so attractive that hardly anyone leaves at 16 although it is legally possible.'

Now - I am ignoring the debate about the policy itself - but does the original sentence convey this message? I don't think it does. There is valid meaning in there, but they have buried it in weasel words. It's the timidity of the public sector. I think poor language is a symptom of lack of application to the meaning behind the words.
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