Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Official Style And It's Inherent Assets, Or Are They Flaws?

Official Style: A Critique

The question of “What is the Official Style,” has a multi-faceted answer. The irony of the Official Style is that it was not a style implemented by any official source. While official sources certainly use it, and to great effect, there is no law or any direct imperative that any individual is forced to use it.  Certainly, in our youth during schooling we are taught that we should use the Official Style, without it ever being framed as a style. We are taught that by writing in the method of the Official Style that we sound smarter, and that is how we will get ahead in society. This training is essential to success in today’s society, since the Official Style is so widespread. Indeed, many people write in the Official Style without ever realizing that they are doing so. What then defines Official Style becomes extremely relevant, and the point of this discussion.
            There is an entire list of descriptive features that underlie Official Style. Such as absolutes, coordination, infinitives, prepositions, and more. These features appear in concepts such as obfuscating the truth in political speech, being detached and impartial on government forms, even the intent to fill space with needless words to convey legitimacy through volume, such as in legal papers. The reasons for these tactics are related to the strategy that the person or person(s) writing the Official Style is implementing. In the case of the article I am analyzing, the strategy of the Official Style use is to build impartiality and emphasize passive voice. The document wishes to communicate information, without taking sides. The bureaucratic nature of the work conveys official practices and standards, and the Official Style is clearly the default method to facilitate with that goal. This being said, there are specific examples that highlight this goal, such as the statement regarding unjust treatment or firing reads as follows,In considering whether a dismissal was harsh, unjust or unreasonable, the Fair Work Commission must take into account all of the following factors.”
                After the preceding statement, this text implements bullet points to highlight each possible aspect that needs to be considered in order to answer the question. While these bullets are meant to be clear, and easy enough to understand for the average reader, the tone of each point in this segment echoes the whole. The whole work is written in the passive voice, and strives towards impartiality. This strategy is mostly enabled by the use of definitive bullet points, prepositions, and infinitive phrases. There is also heavy use of coordination in order to link subjects within the same bullet point format. These methods of implementing the Official Style are each unique with defining characteristics. Absolute phrases such as “employees who have been demoted but the demotion did not involve a significant reduction in their remuneration or duties and who remain employed by the employer who demoted them,” particularly help to sell the image of this being an unbiased and impartial work. Not interested in taking sides in a dispute but rather being a neutral judge and setting the policy for procedure. This voice is also passive and is by no means reacting to moment. This text is meant for reference and review, not as an immediate response to a particular action.
This tone is further propagated by Prepositions such as “In other dismissals,” and Infinitives like “Eligible employees may be able to claim.” While both of these terms are in reference for separate tactics for writing in the Official Style, both are highly instrumental in fulfilling the strategy of being detached from the subject matter. It is fair to say that the writer(s) of this government text on the proper and lawful methods for terminating employees will never have direct contact with those that are employing the text. Then there is the very consistent use of coordination. With so many ideas that need to be linked together within one bullet point in order to be precise, it is important to use clear transitions. Such as laying out the specific criteria for terminating an employee, what they have to qualify for, or have been lacking in. Especially in a document that strives for the thin line between clarity and impartiality. This line can be interpreted differently depending on which side of it you are on as well. For an employer, the document can be interpreted in a way that allows them to be rid of unwanted employees. On the flip side it could be interpreted by differently by an employee who feels they have been wrongfully fired. To compound these viewpoints further, there is an interesting irony within this document, while the words on the page strive towards being impartial, unbiased, and official, the content of the message is inherently political and biased. While certainly not everyone will agree with this claim, there is evidence to support it.
            This argument goes beyond just the words on the page. While the words do their best to be passive an impartial, the policies themselves clearly affect the public in political ways. How difficult it is to terminate an employee often boils down to political considerations. Traditionally Republicans maintain the conservative line that favors loose policies that favor companies, and would enable them to more easily terminate employees. This is known as the pro –business line and generally prefers as little government interference as possible. At the other side of the spectrum are the Democrats that tend to be more liberal, and are more supportive and protective of employees rather than employers. The Democrats would be focused on policies that would make it more difficult for companies to fire employees, and require companies to jump through more hoops in order to avoid paying unemployment. They are not against businesses, they just are pro-employee. For either point of view on the subject, it is important to consider that the Official style of writing hides these biases, and serves as a highly effective disconnect between those who set the policies, and those that view the policies and are affected by them. Employer, employee, judge, or even unbiased bystander, Official style is subject to interpretation, both in its word usage and intent.
            In conclusion, to revisit the original question of what the Official Style is, there are two answers. The first, and most boring answer is, The Official Style is the proper method or means to convey ideas, thoughts, and emotions in written and spoken form to another individual or individuals. The far less politically correct answer, and probably the most accurate answer is, the Official Style is how person A sends a message to person B and tries to sound as smart as they can in the process. In the case of our document of the Proper Termination of Employees, It is a combination of these two answers. Some aspects of the document are wordy and written to sound 

Mark S

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