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The Banned List: A Manifesto Against Jargon and Cliche [Kindle Edition]

John Rentoul
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Let me be clear. This book does not contain a raft of measures to address issues around the abuse of the English language. It is not a forward offering to proactively strategise a blue sky solution utilising key deliverables. Nor does it articulate a compelling and coherent vision for the coming period. The fact of the matter is, we need a step change in the way that we communicate if we are to avoid a spiral of decline. It is time to draw a line in the sand and consign certain linguistic atrocities to the dustbin of history. Welcome to The Banned List. The Banned List began with five cliches, and has grown steadily ever since. Here its creator, John Rentoul, sets out the need for such a list and argues the case for clear writing. He looks at the lure of the cliche and how jargon from different walks of life has made its way into the language everyone uses. Cloudy, meaningless words and tired, hackneyed phrases are not merely annoying, they make it hardr for us to communicate. The solution is simple, however. The Banned List shows you the traps to avoid and the rules to bear in mind when writing or speaking clearly and simply. It also contains The List in full. Keep it close to hand and you cannot go wrong. It's not rocket science.

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Am loving the Banned List. Will be my stock Xmas pressie. Was reading on bus earlier; woman next to me started tutting because I laughed too much. --Philip Cowley, Professor of Politics at Nottingham University

Reading the brilliant - or should that be superb? - John Rentoul Banned List manifesto. Must buy. --Benedict Brogan, Deputy Editor, The Daily Telegraph

About the Author

John Rentoul heads the committee that maintains the Banned List - his ever-growing collection of over-used, meaningless and offensive words and phrases. He is also chief political commentator for the Independent on Sunday, and visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he has worked for the BBC and New Statesman, and on an oil rig in the North Sea.

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More About the Author

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting professor at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, which is being reissued by Faber Finds in June 2013. He was Public Affairs News Political Tweeter of the Year 2011, and would curate Questions To Which The Answer Is No (QTWTAIN) and the Banned List if he hadn't banned "curate" as a verb.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This: 9 May 2012
I have just seen the political journalist Andrew Neil use the 'word' 'totes' (for 'totally') on Twitter. This would be excruciating enough from a teenager but from a grown man - not to mention a former editor of the Sunday Times - it is quite distressing. This is something up with which we should not put. Fortunately someone has his 'eye on the ball', so to speak. Or rather, so not to speak.

The Independent journalist John Rentoul seeks to do for clichés, jargon, waffle and other crimes against the English language, what Lynn Truss sought to do to bad punctuation in Eats, Shoots and Leaves. To give writers and speakers a 'wake-up call' and force them to 'smell the coffee' and leave their 'comfort zone' - but not in those words. Not on his watch.

"My experience is that people care about language; pedantry is also popular," he says, in the entertaining fifty-page polemical essay that precedes the list itself. He is not the first person to try to uphold standards in English language usage, of course, and he does acknowledge his eminent predecessors: Henry Fowler (Modern English Usage) and George Orwell (Politics and the English Language) - whom he admires "mainly because his real name was Blair." (Adding a little more evidence to my theory that his Blair veneration is a long-running satire.)

The list itself includes a variety of horrors, few of which I would be sad to see thrown into the 'dustbin of history'.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big it up 11 Oct. 2011
Big it up for John Rentoul's most excellent The Banned List. Some might accuse him of picking at the low hanging fruit that represents the result of my ironically titled comprehensive education. I say "Best. Book. Ever." End of.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The booklet is a useful call to arms in the fight against jargon, clichés and plain bad use of the English language. The previous sentence probably falls foul of the recommendations in several places, already.

The author introduces the subject - i.e. clear, concise writing avoiding tired phrases, buzzwords and other expressions of the day - puts his striving into a historical context (in fact Orwell's Politics and the English Language is quoted quite frequently and many of his examples have made it onto the list), explains the reason for this linguistic diligence or even pedantry and then finally proceeds to the list itself.

The list forms the second half of the book (the split is fairly even) and mostly just involves the word / phrase, which the author considers should be 'banned', with on occasion the context in which it may be acceptable and in rare cases some background.

As noted by another reviewer, if you are looking primarily to understand where the phrases come from, you may be a bit disappointed. On the other hand, if you enjoyed books like Eats, Shoots and Leaves, Politics and the English Language or Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod.: Ein Wegweiser durch den Irrgarten der deutschen Sprache. Die Zwiebelfisch-Kolumnen / Spiegel-Online (for those having the same feeling about the decline of German language use), the book is a useful tool to remind oneself of the mistakes one makes and could correct. The fact that it is occasionally also humorous is an added bonus.

A final note - much of the book's content can be found on the author's blog.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A little dry 2 Oct. 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
I was expecting to find this an amusing read in the vein of 'eats shoots and leaves' or the 'entymologican', but it was really a style guide for the independent with a list of cliches. I would have enjoyed about the origin of the cliches, but this info was not included.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Manifesto for its own sake 1 Feb. 2013
By Richard - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Although a noble project, there are very strong and unfortunate biases at work that undermine the effectiveness and usability of this book. The author dismisses many words and phrases outright, without any explanation. This is very frustrating, because if there had been greater guidance or explanation, then perhaps I could agree with his outcomes. As it is, the work remains a useful addition to a writer's library, but it is not as complete as it could be.
3.0 out of 5 stars Average 7 Sept. 2012
By ElizabethJ - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I find the Banned List purchased from Amazoon interesting and helpful. Some are surprising. I try not to use the listed over used words and sayings. However, the list seems to lean towards the language of the author. We, in America, could add more to the lis.
4.0 out of 5 stars Tired of trite cliches & tiresome jargon. 30 Dec. 2012
By richard d story - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I wondered if there were others, annoyed as I am with the increasing use of overworked cliches, metaphors and jargon. Here is a list of hundreds that I hope never to see or hear again. John Rentoul writes with knowledge, ire and humour.
5.0 out of 5 stars It was really really funny 16 Jun. 2014
By Miss C. L. Shaw - Published on
I was expecting to giggle a little bit but this was actually laugh-out-loud funny. It also taught me a fair bit and I can apply his simple rules in my writing too - he explains why you should as well which is very helpful
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