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The Banned List

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A manifesto for clear writing and an indictment of the damage done to the English language by the use of jargon   John Rentoul examines how poor writing and a reliance on jargon have damaged our ability to communicate with each other and makes the case for the use of clear English. He addresses the verbification of nouns, the use of waffle to pad out a simple statement, and  A manifesto for clear writing and an indictment of the damage done to the English language by the use of jargon   John Rentoul examines how poor writing and a reliance on jargon have damaged our ability to communicate with each other and makes the case for the use of clear English. He addresses the verbification of nouns, the use of waffle to pad out a simple statement, and the importing of business jargon into everyday situations. Unashamedly polemical in tone, his essay condemning contemporary linguistic atrocities is the perfect read for anyone who has ever had the misfortune to read a public policy report on key deliverables or a newspaper article about the latest game-changer. "Am loving the Banned List. Will be my stock Xmas pressie. Was reading on bus earlier; woman next to me started tutting because I laughed too much." --Philip Cowley, Professor of Politics at Nottingham University "Reading the brilliant - or should that be superb? - John Rentoul Banned List manifesto. Must buy." --Benedict Brogan, Deputy Editor, The Daily Telegraph


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A manifesto for clear writing and an indictment of the damage done to the English language by the use of jargon   John Rentoul examines how poor writing and a reliance on jargon have damaged our ability to communicate with each other and makes the case for the use of clear English. He addresses the verbification of nouns, the use of waffle to pad out a simple statement, and  A manifesto for clear writing and an indictment of the damage done to the English language by the use of jargon   John Rentoul examines how poor writing and a reliance on jargon have damaged our ability to communicate with each other and makes the case for the use of clear English. He addresses the verbification of nouns, the use of waffle to pad out a simple statement, and the importing of business jargon into everyday situations. Unashamedly polemical in tone, his essay condemning contemporary linguistic atrocities is the perfect read for anyone who has ever had the misfortune to read a public policy report on key deliverables or a newspaper article about the latest game-changer. "Am loving the Banned List. Will be my stock Xmas pressie. Was reading on bus earlier; woman next to me started tutting because I laughed too much." --Philip Cowley, Professor of Politics at Nottingham University "Reading the brilliant - or should that be superb? - John Rentoul Banned List manifesto. Must buy." --Benedict Brogan, Deputy Editor, The Daily Telegraph

30 review for The Banned List

  1. 5 out of 5

    Phillip Edwards

    I have just seen the political journalist Andrew Neil use the 'word' 'totes' (for 'totally') on Twitter. This would be excruciating enough from a teenager but from a grown man - not to mention a former editor of the Sunday Times - it is quite distressing. This is something up with which we should not put. Fortunately someone has his 'eye on the ball', so to speak. Or rather: so not to speak. The Independent journalist John Rentoul seeks to do for clichés, jargon, waffle and other crimes against t I have just seen the political journalist Andrew Neil use the 'word' 'totes' (for 'totally') on Twitter. This would be excruciating enough from a teenager but from a grown man - not to mention a former editor of the Sunday Times - it is quite distressing. This is something up with which we should not put. Fortunately someone has his 'eye on the ball', so to speak. Or rather: so not to speak. The Independent journalist John Rentoul seeks to do for clichés, jargon, waffle and other crimes against the English language, what Lynn Truss sought to do to bad punctuation in Eats Shoots and Leaves. To give writers and speakers a 'wake-up call' and force them to 'smell the coffee' and leave their 'comfort zone' - but not in those words. Not on his watch. "My experience is that people care about language; pedantry is also popular," he says, in the entertaining fifty-page polemical essay that precedes the list itself. He is not the first person to try to uphold standards in English language usage, of course, and he does acknowledge his eminent predecessors: Henry Fowler (Modern English Usage) and George Orwell (Politics and the English Language) - whom he admires "mainly because his real name was Blair." (Adding a little more evidence to my theory that his Blair veneration is a long-running satire.) The list itself includes a variety of horrors, few of which I would be sad to see thrown into the dustbin of history. As you might expect from a political journalist, it includes many of those slippery phrases found in the repertoire of politicans, like 'going forward', 'crunch talks', 'moral compass' and 'social mobility'. He also debunks some ill-considered metaphors: "Catalogue of errors. (Does it have glossy photographs?)" Then there are tautologies such as 'added bonus', 'job of work' and 'any time soon' - which, as he points out, "is not a different way of saying 'soon', just a longer one." Also on the list are many of those phrases that begin to grate the moment they become fashionable, if not sooner. ('Epic fail' is a 'no-brainer', 'end of.') Plus "Full Stops. When. Used. For. Emphasis." All banned, and rightly so. Although I think some of the more abominable entries ('normalcy' and 'problematise', for example) should not be given the oxygen of publicity. As for 'render inoperative', I really did laugh out loud at that one. I wonder who came up with that, and why they thought it necessary. Rentoul wisely leaves such etymological archaeology to Susie Dent, and simply bins it. Sorted. The problem with a project like this is that it will always be a work in progress. More expressions that have jumped the shark will keep springing to mind. Best not to set the bar too high though, eh? Journalists, politicians and others who 'bandy words' for a living will find this an instructive text. Amusing too.

  2. 5 out of 5

    William Koon

    I disagree with Rentoul on one idea. I believe clichés are clichés at birth rather than by living too long a life. For example, I knew a banjo player who would invent a cliché if one did not exist. But watching the NCAA this week and listening to the mostly dead language announcers, we have to take Rentoul’s denouncement of much contemporary language as repetitive and false and just noises in the air. Of course, he is prissy and pedantic, but who isn’t? Yes, language lives and like all living th I disagree with Rentoul on one idea. I believe clichés are clichés at birth rather than by living too long a life. For example, I knew a banjo player who would invent a cliché if one did not exist. But watching the NCAA this week and listening to the mostly dead language announcers, we have to take Rentoul’s denouncement of much contemporary language as repetitive and false and just noises in the air. Of course, he is prissy and pedantic, but who isn’t? Yes, language lives and like all living things, changes, but many words just add to the death of meaning. He includes a useful glossary of words and phrases we should never ever use such as agency or toxic unless we mean really “agency” or “toxic.” Really. Other uses are just ew. Our contemporary use of language is at a flat and empty nadir reflecting our politicians and our media and ourselves. Memorize the glossary and never use those words again.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Thabs

    This would have been a 3-star critique on over-used terms in the English language if the first half did not come across as a long-winded rant hence the rating I have given it. It did make me think twice (probably a cliché as well) about how I can vary my diction to sound more original, fresh and exciting.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Van Dæmon

    Nothing I haven't heard before Nothing I haven't heard before

  5. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Wright

    Taking as his inspiration (among other things) George Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language, political journalist for the Independent John Rentoul writes a stirring and amusing polemic against the use of jargon in topical discourse that is widely applicable to many areas of life, before listing a wide range of such clichés and Banning Them. The result is brief, entertaining, and if, like me, the sight of a cliché makes you want to vomit, highly satisfying. Taking as his inspiration (among other things) George Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language, political journalist for the Independent John Rentoul writes a stirring and amusing polemic against the use of jargon in topical discourse that is widely applicable to many areas of life, before listing a wide range of such clichés and Banning Them. The result is brief, entertaining, and if, like me, the sight of a cliché makes you want to vomit, highly satisfying.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline Brocker

    I'm going to stop referring to my stories as 'pieces' thanks to this... drat, caught me out trying to sound suave! But probably better as 'story' is more precise than 'piece' (which is better suited when talking about pies and cakes.) I'm going to stop referring to my stories as 'pieces' thanks to this... drat, caught me out trying to sound suave! But probably better as 'story' is more precise than 'piece' (which is better suited when talking about pies and cakes.)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    Good resource for writers of any persuasion, kill the cliche! Particularly agree with ending use of "Urban" and "vibrant" for anyone who isn't white. Good resource for writers of any persuasion, kill the cliche! Particularly agree with ending use of "Urban" and "vibrant" for anyone who isn't white.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    what a piece of junk. at least it was short

  9. 5 out of 5

    nikki fildes

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lesley

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  12. 4 out of 5

    Danté

  13. 4 out of 5

    Robert Willans

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sam Elliot

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andy

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rob Skinner

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gavin

  18. 4 out of 5

    Erica

  19. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rhodri

  21. 5 out of 5

    Hayley

  22. 5 out of 5

    Will Henton

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  24. 5 out of 5

    Stockfish

  25. 4 out of 5

    James Richards

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jon

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kev Johnson

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jleeming

  29. 4 out of 5

    DR GEROME

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dee

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