Friday, May 30, 2008

Trouble in the verb garden

Six months on and Kevin Rudd is finding out about the downside of being Prime Minister. Few of the problems being slated back to Rudd’s leadership are exactly fair, cost of living; fuel and housing were clearly developing under Howard’s watch and have more to do with international dynamics than the domestic economy.

Rudd’s big problem is more likely his communication style. For a start he is more focused on developing effective policy than on explaining, and following the easy run under Howard bureaucrats are far from happy with the long days Rudd is demanding from them.

Well those are the indirect communications issues, his tendency to use language that either makes no sense or few people comprehend doesn’t help much either. Not that the particular fault isn’t common in the political world.

One of the chief criticisms of the Prime Minister is his tendency to turn a verb into a noun, thus forcing him to then find another verb to drive the new noun. For example, rather than say "we will implement the policy next month", Rudd would say "we will be finalising the implementation of the policy next month".

The average reading standard in Australia ranges between that of a year 8 and a year 9 student (13 or 14 years old) and it is this level of readability that most politicians, communicators and, indeed, newspapers, target. The complexity of Rudd’s decreasing public communications is way beyond these levels.

Strange really, when Rudd won hearts and minds originally, with his down to earth style. Obviously he has become enamoured of the linguistic styles of his army of policy advisers. Even so, I wouldn’t to be an advisor who needed waking at 7 am, Kev does have a way with the language of impatience as well.


D.K. Raed said...

aaah so, you suffer from "bureaucratese" there, too. Well, at least it isn't "foot-in-mouth", more like "crap-in-mouth". Personally, I favor the Churchillian style of public speaking.

Cart said...

I’m not sure Rudd’s issue is pure "bureaucratese". He is basically an intellectual, a modern sin I happen to endorse. But then, given the focus on policy development with some very smart people he has trouble bring the responses back to the language of the people.
Churchill actually had many of his radio speeches performed for him by actors. I don’t doubt he wrote them, that was his gift, but he didn’t trust himself to deliver the message. But he wrote and rewrote, I’m not sure the modern tendency for instant gratification allows the preview process.

D.K. Raed said...

Oh no, actors were reading Churchill's speeches? Having only read them, I never knew! I always thought he had a real gift for direct statements.

We also gear almost everything to an 8th grade reading & comprehension level. I believe this is why we are losing our ability for complex thoughts. I used to think people wouldn't like being talked down to, but then GWB came along.

Cart said...

If you read them you received, first hand, the genius of Churchill. He was a great writer.
Having said that I think his genius stopped there. But that is another story.