An abstract art best avoided

IslandI once heard the humorist Frank Muir describe classical music as ‘the kind of music that you keep hoping will turn into a tune.’

I often feel the same way about the utterances of some politicians.  If I listen long enough (I think), sooner or later some of what they are saying might just start to make sense.  The important-sounding words and phrases just might turn into some kind of message that I can act on or think on.  Alas, there are many occasions on which my hopes remain unrealised.

More often than not, the problem comes down to the love that politicians – and others – seem to have for abstract language.

Take this recent gem:

‘Moving forward, and into the future, collectively and with the whole-hearted engagement of the community and of society as a whole, embracing the possibilities that are now before us; engendering confidence, creating opportunities for sustainable economic wealth; ensuring that hard-working families have the tools that they need; and that our environment is protected, not just for our children but for their children and their children’s children.’

It sounds impressive, doesn’t it?  But what does it mean?  Nothing.  Well, nothing that anyone can act upon.

And that’s the problem with abstract language: it often sounds impressive but, all too often, it leaves the reader or listener with little or no idea of what he or she should do next.

If you want to make something happen, if you want your reader to do something – or think something – it is best to use simple concrete language.

This entry was posted in Better communication, Clarity, Plain English. Bookmark the permalink.

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