Not to be confused with official language, a language that is given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction.

Officialese, bureaucratese[1][2], or governmentese is language that sounds official.[3] It is the "language of officialdom".[4] Officialese is characterized by a preference for wordy, long sentences; a preference for complex words, code words or buzzwords over simple, traditional ones; a preference for vagueness over directness and a preference for passive over active voice[3][5] (some of those elements may, however, vary between different times and languages[6]). The history of officialese can be traced to the history of officialdom, as far back as the eldest human civilizations and their surviving official writings.[7]

Officialese is meant to impress the listener (or reader) and increase the authority (more than the social status) of the user, making them appear more professional.[3][4] Ernest Gowers noted that officialese also allows the user to remain vague.[3] It can be used to make oneself understood to insiders while being hard to decipher by those unfamiliar with the jargon and subtexts used.[8] Its use is known to put off members of the general public and reduce their interest in the material presented.[9] Officialese has been criticized as making one's speech or prose "stilted, convoluted, and sometimes even indecipherable"[3] and simply as the "cancer of language".[2] It is thus more pejoratively classified as one of the types of gobbledygook.[1][10] Its use can also result in unintended humorous incidents, and has been often satirized.[3]

Several similar concepts to officialese exist, including genteelism, commercialese, academese, and journalese.[3] The existence of officialese has been recognized by a number of organizations, which have made attempts to curtail its use (see Plain Language Movement).[10][7][11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Olivia Stockard (8 June 2011). The Write Approach: Techniques for Effective Business Writing. Emerald Group Publishing. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-85724-831-2. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  2. ^ a b V.S. Gupta (1 January 2003). Handbook Of Reporting And Communication Skills. Concept Publishing Company. p. 8. ISBN 978-81-8069-043-3. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Bryan A. Garner; Ruth Bader Ginsburg (31 March 2009). "Genteelisms, Officialese, and Commercialese". Garner on Language and Writing. American Bar Association. p. 88-94. ISBN 978-1-60442-445-4. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  4. ^ a b Bryan A. Garner (17 May 2001). A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage. Oxford University Press. p. 615. ISBN 978-0-19-514236-5. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  5. ^ Bryan A. Garner (28 July 2009). "Formal Words". Garner's Modern American Usage (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 370-71. ISBN 978-0-19-987462-0. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  6. ^ J. Renkema (2004). Introduction to Discourse Studies. John Benjamins Publishing. p. 152. ISBN 978-1-58811-530-0. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  7. ^ a b Steven Roger Fischer (3 October 2004). History of Language. Reaktion Books. p. 193. ISBN 978-1-86189-080-1. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  8. ^ Barbara Czarniawska (15 April 1997). Narrating the Organization: Dramas of Institutional Identity. University of Chicago Press. p. 152. ISBN 978-0-226-13229-7. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  9. ^ Talke Klara Hoppmann (18 March 2010). Citizen Perceptions of the European Union: The Impact of the Eu Web Site. Cambria Press. p. 411. ISBN 978-1-60497-675-5. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  10. ^ a b Martin Manser (28 August 2011). Good Word Guide: The fast way to correct English - spelling, punctuation, grammar and usage. A&C Black. p. 451. ISBN 978-1-4081-2332-4. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  11. ^ Christopher Williams (30 June 2007). Tradition and Change in Legal English: Verbal Constructions in Prescriptive Texts. Peter Lang. p. 177. ISBN 978-3-03911-444-3. Retrieved 29 August 2012.

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