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 is the author of The Banned List and Questions to Which the Answer Is ‘No!’.
Other titles by John Rentoul
The Banned List
Bad English, as George Orwell argued so eloquently over 60 years ago, is a sign of laziness, sloppy thought or insincerity. Yet why is it then that so many of us remain in thrall to cliches, stale idioms and empty phrases when it comes to expressing ourselves?
Jargon is undoubtedly alluring: it’s quick, it’s easy and (we like to think) it makes us look like we know what we’re talking about. It helps us fit in with others who use the same language. The trouble is it all too often becomes a short-cut for saying nothing very much; it conceals meaning rather than communicating it.
John Rentoul examines how poor writing and a reliance on jargon have damaged our ability to communicate with each other and makes the case for the use of clear English. Unashamedly polemical in tone, this compelling essay condemns such linguistic atrocities as the verbification of nouns, the use of waffle to pad out a simple statement or the importing of business jargon into everyday situations. The perfect read for anyone who has ever had the misfortune to read a public policy report on key deliverables or a hackneyed newspaper article about the latest game-changer.
Questions To Which The Answer Is ‘No!’
John Rentoul has been running the Questions To Which The Answer Is ‘No!’ Awards for several years now. Celebrating the journalistic skill of basing an entire article on a fantastically far-fetched question-based headline (and only admitting that the premise is extraordinarily unlikely in the final paragraph), his blog attracts large numbers of followers keen to submit their own favourites. Here for the first time Rentoul brings together the winning entries over the years.
With an introductory essay on the art of headline writing, the book comments on headlines on subjects from sports to politics, current affairs and history. Featuring such journalistic gems as:
- Was JFK killed because of his interest in aliens?
- Can your dreams predict the future?
- Is this penguin a communist?
- Has Marilyn Monroe been reincarnated as a shop assistant called Chris?
. . . and many more, Questions To Which The Answer Is ‘No!’ will leave you not knowing whether to laugh or cry at the state of journalism today.