Thursday, May 15, 2008

Alcopops, Tim Blair and the Daily Telegraph and the damaging effects of some official English

When I wrote my post Alcopops and mixed drinks - The Head strikes I never expected that the new tax on pre-mixed drinks would become a major budget issue. Yes, I thought that it was a silly decision. It was also ageist and sexist. Now we have the odd position of Opposition Leader Nelson coming to the defence of my daughters. Very strange.

Tim Blair has shifted his blog to a new site as part of the Sydney Daily Telegraph site. Sorry Tim. Of course I knew that you worked at the Tele. But it was still your personal site. Now it is a newspaper site and I am much less inclined to visit.

The evils of official English are much on my mind at present. Not all official English, just some of that found in some current institutions.

In internal writing, including advice to ministers, I have always used the words I and we. I signals that it is my personal opinion, we that it is a group position. No more I fear. Everything must be expressed as though it is the view of some anonymous official body. No personal flavouring is allowed.

Worse, while the official position opposes the passive tense, a tense I greatly dislike, the practical effect of the rules makes the passive tense hard to avoid. I accept that I am old fashioned, but I still feel that (within limits) writing should be fun to do and read. We are meant to be communicating, after all.

Since the Rudd Government came to power a new jargon has begun to creep in. The term "technical paper" is now in vogue. I have no particular problems with this. If I can call some of my writing "technical papers" and it helps me get the material through, then I am greatly in favour. Still, I find the change process interesting.

Postscript

I could not resist bringing Neil's response to this post up on the main post:

"Two technical papers have been written by someone who may be myself, or they may be plagiarised from some other, but when the passive is used such agency or responsibility may be hidden if this is deemed desirable, which may well be sometimes the case. They may be found if diligent search is made at the following addresses: Overusing the passive voice? and Just the most marvellous book about writing! It is recommended that they be read by all who are entrusted with writing technical papers, no matter by what department they may be employed.

Yours faithfully,

Neil Whitfield BA (Hons) Dip Ed Grad Cert TESOL".

1 comment:

ninglun said...

Two technical papers have been written by someone who may be myself, or they may be plagiarised from some other, but when the passive is used such agency or responsibility may be hidden if this is deemed desirable, which may well be sometimes the case. They may be found if diligent search is made at the following addresses: Overusing the passive voice? and Just the most marvellous book about writing! It is recommended that they be read by all who are entrusted with writing technical papers, no matter by what department they may be employed.

Yours faithfully,

Neil Whitfield BA (Hons) Dip Ed Grad Cert TESOL.