15 May 2008

Passive voice makes me aggressive!

Ads running on Melbourne morning radio this week re the impending closure of the Montague Street on-ramp to the CityLink tollway included the following line in the serious voice-over:
"It is encouraged motorists plan their trip with alternate routes"

I think I’ve seen this message once before… on a Chinese T-shirt. If CityLink is going to pay real money for spots like this, surely they can also afford a copywriter who’s familiar with English.


Nigel Catchlove said...

Life must be difficult for people who speak English as a second language. In fact, life is difficult for anyone who speaks English at all because understanding the meaning of this bureaucratic double-speak is impossible. The same person who approved this wording (and you can bet there was a convoluted approval process), probably thinks they are a good communicator.

I recently interviewed a job applicant who's written application was awful by any measure. I asked him to describe his written communication and he used the word succinct. However his application included 60-word sentences while encompassing a thought pattern that can only be described as stream of consciousness. This convoluted, wishy-washy, passive language has become the norm in the public service.

Jonathan said...

It looks like a blatant case of avoiding the first person to communicate potentially unpleasant news.

The obfuscation is so obvious that the add is doubly bad: poorly worded AND laughably dishonest.

I can't agree that this is language confined to the public service, however.