As a child, I was always told to think before I spoke. I’m not sure that instruction had much effect until I was a long way into being an adult, but it is, of course, a sensible piece of advice.

If we all thought before we spoke, instead of allowing ourselves to become submerged in the corporate language of whichever organisation currently pays our salary, the world might well be a better place.

But I’m not advocating for world peace in this blog, just using a simple example to demonstrate why we should always challenge what we say, and most especially, what we write.

My example is nursery rhymes. If you have children you’re likely to have sung a choice few on a loop at some point, whether that was to keep the little darlings awake on the drive home from nursery so that bedtime didn’t suddenly become 9pm, to soothe a distressed small one after they woke up in the night or at a local playgroup.

But do we really think about what we’re singing?

Here are a few choice examples:

  • Jack and Jill went up the hill, and Jack fractures his skull on the way back down. Sourcing water clearly needs a new risk assessment
  • Goosey Goosey Gander commits GBH on a poor man who doesn’t share the same religion by throwing him down the stairs
  • All of the children die of the plague in Ring A Ring O’ Roses
  • An old man dies in his sleep after a head injury in It’s Raining, It’s Pouring

I’m not saying we shouldn’t sing nursery rhymes. I’m just using these examples, so deeply embedded in the British psyche, as a way of illustrating that we can perpetuate a lack of understanding by being reluctant to think about or challenge “accepted” language.

Here’s the sales bit:

We’re not afraid of playing the village idiot, or of challenging language which isn’t appropriate to the audience. We can help you identify the words and phrases you use which could alienate others, turning the complex into the comprehensible. If you want to see some examples, just give us a shout.