22 ugly EU jargon words we really hate

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Jargon is a form of linguistic cancer eating away at the European body politic.  If EU institutions are to stand any chance of reconnecting with disillusioned voters, they must  surgically remove jargon and communicate in clear, concrete language.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Over the years, EU officials – and the tens of thousands of lobbyists, diplomats and even journalists who inhabit the Brussels bubble – have developed a bizarre, contorted language of their own. Dubbed ‘Eurospeak’ or ‘Euro-English,’ this lazy, alienating form of talking and writing relies on glueing together vague, abstract and often meaningless phrases like shards of a smashed vase, using long, complicated, show-off words where short, clear, simple ones will do and falling back on unintelligible jargon to express often simple ideas.

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EU jargon comes in many guises. There are words and phrases unique to Brussels – like ‘comitology’ and the ‘codecision’ procedure – that are complicated to explain but can be easily translated into clear English with a bit of effort. That will be the topic of our next post. But there is another perversion of language that is even more poisonous – the often meaningless and almost always ugly jargon of modern business and bureaucracy. Tired, technocratic words like ‘stakeholder,’ ‘framework’ and ‘roadmap,’ cliches like ‘win-win’ and ‘level-playing field,’ euphemisms like ‘social exclusion,’ throw-away terms like ‘holistic’ and ‘inclusive’ and a host of other vague, pompous or foggy phrases cloud clear thinking, mangle the English language and act as a major obstacle to communicating with the outside world. They are not,of course, exclusive to the EU but it is almost impossible to read a European Commissioner’s speech, trade association policy paper or NGO press release without at least one of these dreadful words popping up.

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Having asked our Twitter followers what EU jargon they hate, we have drawn up a list of 22 commonly-used words and phrases that can be viewed here. For each piece of jargon we have given an example of how it is used, explained why we object to it and suggested alternatives to the original. If there are words you’d like to see on the blacklist, you can post them on our Twitter feed using the #eujargon hashtag. Or send us an email with your personal horrors and we’ll do our best to find alternatives. And if you have become infected by EU jargon and find yourself telling your colleague you’re off on mission to Estonia or your husband/wife that you need to develop a roadmap for mainstreaming household chores into your daily schedules, we can send word-doctors to help. Our course on clear writing will have you writing and speaking like a human being again in no time at all.


About Gareth Harding

Gareth is the Managing Director of Clear Europe and head of the Missouri School of Journalism's Brussels Programme. He is a former journalist, speechwriter and political advisor.

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Timothy Cooper - October 17, 2014 Reply

The EU institutions are well aware of the problem, and are doing their best to communicate clearly. They have even produced a very similar guide to ‘Misused English words and expressions in EU publications’, available at, and a brochure on ‘How to Write Clearly’, available at They could clearly do better, and I am sure they will be looking at your list with a view to updating their own.

Gareth Harding
Gareth Harding - October 20, 2014 Reply

Love both those publications. Problem is EU institutions rarely follow their own advise. Most writing still way too turgid and they could certainly be doing a lot more to communicate clearly with public.

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