Bureaucratic Language in Government and Business
Plunging into the verbal quagmire of official language used by bureaucrats in both government and business, distinguished linguist Roger W. Shuy develops new techniques based on linguistic principles to improve their communication with the public.
Shuy presents nine case studies that reveal representative problems with bureaucratic language. He characterizes the traits of bureaucratic language candidly, though somewhat sympathetically, and he describes how linguists can provide bureaucrats with both the tools for communicating more clearly and also the authority to implement these changes.
Drawing on documents cited in class action lawsuits brought against the Social Security Administration and Medicare, Shuy offers a detailed linguistic analysis of these agencies’ problems with written and oral communication, and he outlines a training program he developed for government writers to solve them. Moving on to the private sector, Shuy analyzes examples of the ways that businesses such as car dealerships, real estate and insurance companies, and commercial manufacturers sometimes fail to communicate effectively. Although typically bureaucracies change their use of language only when a lawsuit threatens, Shuy argues that clarity in communication is a cost effective strategy for preventing or at least reducing litigation.
Bureaucratic Language in Government and Business explains why bureaucratic language can be so hard to understand and what can be done about it.
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Problems with the Original Explanation of Medicare Benefits
HHSs Response to the Court Order to Revise the Form
Further Suggestions for Revision
Failure to Capture Beneficiaries Perspective
Futility of Followup Telephone Communication
Share or give up Perceived Power
Letting the Beneficiaries SelfGenerate Topics
Defusing the Legal Format
Taking the Beneficiarys Perspective
Avoiding Displays of Knowledge
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Hearing Formats
Socially Acquired Gender Specification Address Forms
Training a Bureaucracy to Write Clearly A Case Study of the Social Security Administration
Revision of SSAs Attempt to Comply with This Mandate
SSAs Request That We Train Their NoticeWriting Staff
Early Ethnographic Observations
Designing the Training Program
The Training Program
Features of the Training Program
The Decision Tree
Authority Based on Linguistic Justification
A Bureaucracys Struggle with Saying No A Medicare Case Study
When Bureaucracies Clash A Case Study of Physicians Disability Report Forms
TDDSs Proposed Medical Assessment Report Form
Legal Services Revised Form B
Legal Services Revised Form C
Bureaucratic Speech Research on Telephone vs InPerson Administrative Hearings
Analysis of Actual Hearings
Power in the Administrative Hearing
Status and Role in Administrative Hearings
Hearings with Attorneys
Hearings with Beneficiaries
Rely on Informal Conversational Style
Physical Presence vs Presence of Telephonic Voice Only
Facing the Bureaucratic Language of the Insurance Industry A Case Study of a Consumers Affairs Conference
Aspects of Language that Contribute to Comprehensibility
Misconceptions about Language that Interfere with Comprehensibility
Untangling the Bureaucratic Language of Real Estate A Case Study of Commission Agreements
Commission Agreement Number One
Commission Agreement Number Two
Commission Agreement Number Three
Attacking the Bureaucratic Language of Car Sales A Case Study of a Car Sales Event
Specialization of Functions
Adherence to Fixed Rules
Hierarchy of Authority
Bureaucratic Language and Product Warning Labels Case Studies of the Requirements of FDA and OSHA Bureaucratic Language and Warnings
Bureaucratic Language and the US Food and Drug Administration
Bureaucratic Language and the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA
What Is Bureaucratic Language and What Can Be Done About It?
What Is Bureaucratic Language?
What Can Be Done About Bureaucratic Language?