Our head honcho, aka Glynsky, always claims that only the English speak and write proper English. Following please find a perfect example of “English English”, provided by an English supporter of Diablog. For Non-English readers, WikiPedia about the NHS, but you could substitute NHS with any other large organization.
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All NHS staff must learn a second language before they can be truly proficient communicators: they need to be able to speak NHS.
In the latest in our occasional series of tutorials, we offer further tips for the aspiring NHS speaker.
In most languages, verbs are “doing” words. In NHS they are “actively considering” words. Saying that you will “do” something may make you appear brash or over-confident. Acceptable alternatives include “aim to”, “take steps toward” and “formulate a vision and strategy for”.
When you have practised each of these, you can use them together to convey the desired nuance or level of obfuscation.
So while “aiming to tackle the causes of health inequalities” could still be mistaken for a commitment, “aiming to take steps towards formulating a vision and strategy for tackling health inequalities” avoids the risk of embarrassment and disappointment when nothing happens, but demonstrates very strong active consideration.
In English, nouns – or naming words – denote a person, place or thing. In NHS, nouns are used to create the impression of something tangible.
For example “stakeholder” is a useful term meaning someone who is not involved and you have no intention of involving, but who cannot be ignored. A patient is a good example of a “stakeholder”.
When you have mastered “stakeholder”, you can start to introduce “ownership” into your everyday conversation. Here are a few phrases to practise, with English translations in brackets.
* “I’m going to give you ownership” (“It’s your problem now”)
* “We don’t have ownership” (“Nothing is our fault”)
* “We are working with stakeholders to establish full ownership” (“No one knows what’s going on”)
Adjectives in English are used to describe things, usually to make them clearer. Adjectives have a slightly different role in NHS, which is to make statements more emphatic. Simple ones to start with include “key”, “core”, “vital”, “meaningful”, “strategic” and “high-quality”. In NHS it is mandatory to use at least one of these words in front of any noun.
“Increasing” is among the most useful adjectives in NHS. Describing all problems as “increasing” helps to explain why they continue to get away from us despite the steps we have taken to formulate a vision and strategy for aiming to solve them.
Putting it all together
Once you have grasped the different parts of speech, you will soon be ready to try out your new skills. Here are two superb examples of written NHS, taken from a report published this week by the Local Government Association* and Public Health England. Don’t be disheartened if your first attempts are not up to this standard.
“A history of joint working has ensured that health issues are built into planning policies. Healthy urban planning is now high on the council’s priority agenda and a toolkit is being developed to embed health issues further into planning.”
“A number of partnerships and a strategy involving a parallel inter-linked range of initiatives have been set up to tackle the increasing problem of alcohol misuse in the city. Pioneering use has been made of the council’s traditional functions in the service of health. Involving the public and service users has been a key component.”
Note how the sheer density of each sentence creates a sense of meaning without allowing any actual meaning to escape. This is the effect you should aim for in your own written and verbal communications.
All of which leads us to the first rule of NHS, known as the gas and air principle: the purpose of words is not to bring ideas to life but to render them unconscious as swiftly and safely as possible.
(*Not an NHS organisation, but an accomplished NHS speaker in its own right.)
Clearly, the English have taken Bullshit Bingo to a new high.