I just had to transcribe the “BP 2 MY Performance Measure Survey for LHDs” into an MS Word document. I think it proves a theory that I developed in college about government documentations & language.
I had to read a lot of them in college. I had to read a lot & there are certainly rules, or at least patterns that you see with certain types of documents.
For instance, if you ever read Karl Marx, or any real communist writer, you come to understand that they only have a point when they are brief. “The Thesis on Feuerbach” had a very strong & very valid point. It was only two pages. When people like Marx get long-winded on a topic, it generally means that they can’t prove what they’re arguing & are looking to throw in as much “evidence” as they can to confuse the reader into agreement.
The same rule applies to Eastern European writers. Well, it’s not the same rule, but it’s pretty darn close. In credo, most of them will take ten-pages to summarize what a Western European or an American writer will do in three. Asian writers, however, will only devote a page to what a European or an American writer will do in three. It’s just the way it works. Asian writers are very much Hemingway enthusiast, at least in form.
Of course the rule doesn’t apply to everyone. Hobbes, from England, took forever to get to a point, but he was writing philosophy, was a pleasure to read regardless, & was trying to use as much “evidence” to back up a thesis that became vapid after his description of life. So I tend to throw him in with Marx category.
Conversely Hamilton would be shocked at the length of both the USA PATRIOT ACT & the Affordable Care Act, both of which are longer than his combined proposals & the Federalist Papers. Hamilton was a man that knew, in his heart-of-hearts, that he was right & because of that, he didn’t feel the need to be long winded.
Government documents, on the other hand, follow their own rules. For instance, there can rarely be the use of the word “and” without the addition of “/or.” The same rule applies for the word “or,” which nine-of-ten times must be proceeded with “and/” That’s rule number one.
The second rule deals strictly with verbiage. There can only be a maximum of thirty different words in any singular government text & they must be repeated with the maximum amount of frequency possible. This bleeds into paragraphs, which must also have at least two sentences copied, in their entirety, from the proceeding paragraph.
The copied sentences are often in the form of lists with the heavy use of a comma & possibly the addition of “and/or” without which the document may lose all bureaucratic credibility. Most of these words have to have the same basic meaning. The words in the repeated list, have to be words that fiction authors will substitute for one another in an effort to NOT sound as repetitive as a government document. An example “plans, processes, procedures, and systems.”
“Plans, processes, procedures, and systems,” if used once in a paragraph, will have to be used a second time & then twice more in as many paragraphs as possible.
The writing style is designed for clarity, but the sheer repetitiveness of it is likely what confuses many readers.
In government documents, you do not want your reader to shrink from preforming the necessary tasks of the “procedure’ because they might think of it as only a mere “process.”
It’s a valid argument, especially in the Post-Seinfeld world of argued minutia. The sitcom is still popular enough to by on syndicate & thus to be a threat to clarity & understanding in the same way that “Dilbert” is a threat to the cubical world.
The thing is, for those incapable of tuning it out, the repetitiveness is a brick wall. The sentence has meaning, but all some people are capable of reading is the “plans, processes, procedures, and systems.”
People look at a government document & think, “isn’t this the same as the last sentence? What’s different here?” After which they are forced to reread the text, again, & again, & again, to find how this sentence is different from the one before it & the one after it.
It’s certainly why some people have a hard time following these things. Repetitiveness makes for dull prose, which is made worse when your brain as to read “and/or” and/or thus adding more complication to what could otherwise be a simple sentence.
It’s complicated & yet generally only has thirty different words per-page. The words are easy, the verbiage is easy, it’s only the repetitiveness that really complicates the text.
The people that have a hard time understanding these things are probably too smart for them. Give a government document to a genius & they might be flabbergasted. Their big brains aren’t wired to understand them. And/or, more appropriately, they are too smart to NOT understand them.
They are focusing too much on the individual words. This is wrong. It only leads to confusion. Government documents are like Pidgin, if you try to follow what a Pidgin speaker is saying, word for word, you’ll never understand it. However, if you just follow the gist of what they are saying, your brain will translate it fluently.
That’s the trick. The government is a bureaucracy & the documentation that it produces is also & therefore necessarily bureaucratic. You can’t be Albert Einstein & expect to understand it. If you are, than you’re aiming too high. You have to instead be Radar O’Reilly.
Radar was a wise & noble man.
“How do you understand all of this Radar?”
“I try not to, sir.’
It is very simply what you have to do if you are to successfully read, understand, and/or write a government document. Try not to understand it, you’ll do better.