Governments tell us that suspicious behaviour should always be reported, so as Echo editor I dutifully submit the following.
I firmly believe that bureaucratic language – for the most part – is used against the populace for self-serving and nefarious reasons.
The aim of this style of writing should be to create a readable legal document; however, it tends to be largely incomprehensible to the public. Poor bureaucratic language serves no function other than to create division and the illusion of power.
The subtext of course is that, ‘Well, if you can’t understand what we are saying, you are obviously not bright enough.’ What bullshit. Even though everyone has different cognitive and comprehensive abilities, the general principle of good writing is based on simplicity, not complexity.
Whether legislator, bureaucrat or journalist, it’s imperative that words are not misused to obscure intentions. Words are written to say what you mean.
Poor bureaucratic language also results in low participation by the public. It’s just one of many reasons behind the poor standing of politicians and bureaucrats in the public eye. The suspicion, of course, is that unnecessarily complex language is written in an effort to hide something. Why else go to so much trouble?
The following excerpt is from Byron Council’s Draft Amended Code of Meeting Practice. It is by no means the worst piece of bureaucratic waffle ever written, but is a current example. Essentially it’s a document to encompass policy for all Council’s meetings and committees.
‘5. The decision of the [Planning Review Committee] is to be that the application is or is not to be dealt with under delegated authority. No directions are to be given, formally or informally, as to the evaluation of the development application. Where the Committee determines that an application is appropriately dealt with under delegated authority that application may be determined at a time after the Committee meeting.’
It should be a simple code of practice, but instead it’s confusing, time consuming and treats us like idiots.