Weasel Words in Safety – Words that promise much but deliver little
Guest Post by the late George Robotham
Those of you who read my posts will know I am a big critic of the long, ponderous written communications, that seems to infect the safety world. Given a choice many people take a least time / least effort approach to life, if your written communications is too much like hard work, a lot of people are simply not going to put in the work to read it. Busy people do not have the time to read tomes and busy people do not have the time to write the
Many readers of safety information are relatively unsophisticated and material is often pitched at too high a level.
I used to work for a manager who had a focus on clear, succinct and uncomplicated written communications. Terry used to hate the use of what he referred to as weasel words in safety communications. Weasel words promise the earth but deliver little in the real world!
‘In 1916 Theodore Roosevelt declared that the ‘tendency to use what have been called weasel words was “one of the defects of our nation”.’ ‘You can have universal training or you can have voluntary training, but when you use the word “voluntary” to qualify the word “universal”, you are using a weasel word,’ he said: ‘it has sucked all the meaning out of “universal”.’
Be aware of weasel words!