Jacob Rees-Mogg, the new Leader of the House of Commons, has attracted much ridicule, and some support, for issuing a styleguide with a list of banned words to his officials.
As someone who cares about good writing, I think it’s quite reasonable for a busy minister (or CEO) to give guidance to staff on writing style. This can help them consume information written for them by staff more easily, and it reduces drafting in documents that staff prepare to go out under his or her name.
He gives good guidance here for corporate and PR writing. Here’s my take on some his instructions:
Organisations are singular Yes - A frequent mistake in corporate writing. Makes comprehension harder.
CHECK your work Yes - Hugely important in all corporate communication.
Double space after full stops Yes - This has caused bemusement. I was taught this, as it makes it easier for the reader. I wouldn’t die in the ditch on this.
No comma after ‘and’ Yes - As a general rule, this is true. Though there are situations where a double comma separating an aside or appositive following ‘and’ could be used.
Imperial measurements No - I will leave that fight for another day, but I was taught metric measurements in the late 1960s.
The banned words:
Yes - Overused. Hardly ever needed.
Due to Yes Perhaps overused, but I’m unclear why he dislikes it.
Ongoing Yes - Meaningless.
Hopefully Yes - Meaningless.
Unacceptable Yes - Unclear what JRM’s animus is. A cliché I suppose.
Equal ? Ditto.
Too many ‘I’s Yes - Good advice to any sub-editing to cut out ‘I’s.
Lot Yes - Perhaps overused and colloquial.
Got Yes - I like ‘got’ when used correctly.
‘invest’ (as in schools) Yes - Widely misused so that the original sense is eroded.
No longer fit for purpose Yes - Terrible cliché spreading from the UK public sector.
I am pleased to learn Yes - Guff, can always be cut out.
Meet with Yes ‘With’ redundant, as ‘meet’ transitive. Battle perhaps lost.
Ascertain ? Mealy-mouthed I suppose.
Disappointed ? Unclear what JRM doesn’t like.
I note your concerns Yes - Hackneyed and overused.
(Editor's note: The peril of a piece of writing about style is that it invites the reader to find exceptions in the author/publication's own work. This article represents the opinion of its author. Cognito follows American style for global writing and press materials, roughly following the AP Styleguide. And yes, in America it is one word. Our clients generally prefer the language of their own region, although sometimes they have hybrid solutions. While there's agreement on most of Mr. Rees-Mogg's list, you won't many blog posts with two spaces after sentences here.)
Andrew Marshall is the deputy CEO of Cognito