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Words and phrases Words not to use

The English language is complex and many words have multiple meanings. This can make them difficult to understand for some users, particularly those with English as a second language. Use clear and plain language alternatives where possible to avoid confusion.

Do not use the following words:

  • agenda (unless it is for a meeting)
  • advancing
  • collaborate (use "working with")
  • combating
  • commit/pledge (we are either doing something or we are not)
  • countering
  • deliver (pizzas, post and services are delivered – not abstract concepts)
  • deploy (unless it is military or software)
  • dialogue (we speak to people)
  • disincentivise (and incentivise)
  • drive (you can drive vehicles; not schemes or people)
  • empower
  • facilitate (instead, say something specific about how you are helping)
  • focussing
  • foster (unless it is a child)
  • impact (as a verb)
  • initiate
  • key (unless it unlocks something; a subject or thing is probably "important")
  • land (as a verb; only use if you are writing about aircraft)
  • leverage (unless in the financial sense)
  • liaise
  • overarching
  • progress (as a verb)
  • promote (unless it concerns an ad campaign or a marketing promotion)
  • robust (unless referring to statistical estimates)
  • streamline
  • strengthening (unless it is strengthening bridges or other structures)
  • tackling (unless it is rugby, football, or some other sport)
  • transforming (explain what you are actually doing to change something)
  • utilise (this means to use as something other than its intended purpose)

Remember to avoid these phrases when writing in plain language, particularly where they may have more than one meaning:

  • drive out (unless it is cattle)
  • driven by (unlikely we are talking about vehicles); use "caused by" or "because of"
  • due to (unless referring to debt or time); use "because of"
  • going forward (unlikely we are giving travel directions); use "from now" or "from [enter date]"
  • in order to (can always be replaced with a simple "to")
  • one-stop shop (we are not a retail outlet and creating a single place for everything often does not meet user need)
  • reach out (has two meanings); use "contact"
  • ring-fencing (this could be confusing to someone with English as a second language)
  • slimming down (processes do not diet – state what is happening)

Find out more about our words to watch

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