While carrying out the task of updating Rambutan’s style guide, Kat has been delving into the Oxford English Dictionary on more than a few occasions and realising that while the English language isn’t the simplest to understand, it can be a lot of fun!
Proofreading is a matter of course for the bunch at Rambutan and we take great pains to make sure everything we send out internally and externally; emails, printed documents or notices, are grammatically correct, to the point and easy to understand.
By easy to understand, I mean that we try to avoid (at all costs) any kind of jargon, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as, ‘words or expressions used by a particular profession or group that are difficult for others to understand.’ My straightforward definition is ‘pointless fluff or meaningless acronyms that create a divide between the talker/writer and their audience’.
Office jargon has become commonplace; expressions such as blue-sky thinking, touching base, hitting the ground running or keeping this on your radar. I’m sure you can think of a few more examples of your own. All have their own various origins (quite a few from sporting expressions strangely), but each seems to have been adopted into the workplace to represent something else.
I think it should always be about keeping things straightforward. If your granny can’t understand what you’re trying to say, why should you assume anyone else can?
That said, there is a fine line between explaining something in a succinct way and actually ‘dumbing down’ the expression. I guess that decision is based on your relationship with your audience and the ‘tone of voice’ you use.
In the course of checking and cross-checking everything I wanted to include in the Rambutan style guide, I learned a huge amount about the English language rules of grammar and punctuation. It’s not an easy and straightforward topic to grasp I can tell you! Useful books to read are ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’ by Lynne Truss; and ‘My Grammar and I (Or Should That Be ‘Me’?)’ by Caroline Taggart and J. A. Wines. And of course, my bible, the Oxford English Dictionary by lots of people in white coats (presumably) at Oxford University Press!
On that note, I thought I’d end with a little quiz for you, based on my online research. The meanings of unfamiliar words can sometimes be guessed using common sense. Others, not so. See how you get on with this little selection:
Answers in the Oxford English Dictionary. Break a leg!