Bad Language: The Use and Abuse of Official Language - Public Administration Committee Contents


Politics and government are public activities, and so politicians and public servants should use language that people find clear, accurate and understandable. We undertook this inquiry because we were concerned that too often official language distorts or confuses meaning. This is damaging because it can prevent public understanding of policies and their consequences, and can also deter people from getting access to public services and benefits.

We conclude that bad official language which results in tangible harm—such as preventing someone from receiving the benefits or services to which they are entitled—should be regarded as "maladministration". People should feel able to complain about cases of confusing or misleading language, as they would for any other type of poor administration. Equally, government and public sector bodies need to respond properly to complaints about bad official language; and if they do not, people should be encouraged to take their complaints to the relevant Ombudsman.

Bad official language deserves to be mocked, but it also needs to be taken seriously. We hope that our conclusions and suggestions will encourage government to mind its language in future.

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