Conservative minister and self-confessed "grammar fascist" Alan Duncan has ramped up his semantic campaign with a memo banning civil servants from using certain phrases.
The instructions, which as first reported in the Telegraph appeared on the Department for International Development internal website, urges staff to cull “language that the rest of the world doesn’t understand”.
He asks for certain words to be avoided in internal briefings or in documents, and for officials to think of members of the public when writing relevant information.
Anyone familiar with 1970's sitcom "Yes Minister" will recognise in Duncan's instructions echoes of its stereotypical civil servant character Sir Humphrey, whose linguistic political posturing baffles the listener into submission.
Duncan's banned list makes for piquant reading, with many patois pedants no doubt sharing his pain.
Starting sentences with the words 'but' and 'however' is deemed "irksome" and the opening phrase 'going forward' dubbed "loose and meaningless" by Duncan.
The words ‘leverage’ or ‘mainstream’ are said to be not preferred by the minister, and stronger condemnation is levelled at 'access’, ‘catalyse’, ‘showcase’ or ‘impact.’
According to the memo, these words are "nearly as depressing for him" as reading about DfID’s work in ‘the humanitarian space.'
In a style reminiscent of a peeved professor, Duncan stresses the importance of hyphenating compound adjectives and using apostrophes in the right place. Among other pet hates he also lists that "a sentence which begins with ‘Grateful for your…’ would appear to be lacking the prefix ‘I would be…’.”
However the minister is not alone, in his dislike of language that portrays "sloppy thinking." The Department for Transport published a 1,500-word report in December listing linguistic faux-pas.
A spokesperson for the Department for International Development said: "Minister of State Alan Duncan considers clear language and proper grammar to be vital for effective communication. His comments were not intended to suggest that this is a significant problem at DfID or unique to this department.
"Given the need to communicate clearly with partner organisations and with the public this is an issue that he believes should be given proper consideration by all staff."