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Software firm fines staff for using jargon

Tony Collins

A software company is fining staff for using jargon and clichés and is pressing other companies to do the same.

Original Software, which has bases in London and Chicago, taxes staff 20p for ordinary misdemeanours and 50p for the particularly disliked "leverage" and "paradigm shift". It donates the money raised to charity.

The Local Government Association issued a list to of banned words and phrases such as "Predictors of Beaconicity", "coterminous" and "situational" to councils last week.

But Original Software has taken the Association's ban a stage further. The company's Kate Mackinder wrote to Computer Weekly's IT Projects blog saying: "We've levied a corporate tax on the use of a whole list of words."

Original Software's communications department uses a large whiteboard to display the banned words and phrases. "People visit us all the time to add things that they've just heard that they feel should be included," said Mackinder.

Since the tax came into force about a month ago, the company has collected about £100 which it has given to an orphanage in Nepal.

Kate Mackinder disagreed with some of the criticisms made by IT professionals to the Local Government Association's list of banned jargon, posted on Computer Weekly's IT Projects

She said: "I think the point people are missing here is not that the words themselves are necessarily jargon or even inappropriate, but that their over-use, and in some cases misuse, has become clichéd.

"For example there is nothing wrong with 'interface' if we are talking about an application interface, but when used to simply replace 'let's meet up' not only does the speaker sounds like a bit of a twerp, but it is a blatant misuse of the word."

She said that councils should be "building community spirit and getting behind local charities by taxing council workers for the use of the words". She added: "Just 20p a time does add up quite quickly and really motivates people to think harder about what they are saying."

Computer Weekly plans to keep a list of business and IT industry jargon and clichés that should be avoided or at least used in a thoughtful way. We will start with the list used by Original Software. Anyone with suggestions should email: rebecca.froley@rbi.co.uk

A list of Original Software's taxable words and phrases is on the IT Projects Blog


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