VCE English Language – Obfuscation in Action!

I will be running the most comprehensive workshop for VCE English Language 3/4 these coming autumn holidays, with a particular focus on formal language (Unit 3 AOS 2). To find out more, please go here or here

Don’t miss out – my workshops always sell out every holiday – and I have got so much planned for you. Continue setting those foundations and maintain dominance throughout the year! You see past testimonials from past attendees by clicking the links above!

VCE English Language – Obfuscation in Action

In today’s post, I want to show you a MODERN example of how formal language can be used to obfuscate the truth. And how it can be used in the business context to deflect blame and manipulate the truth. Many organisations don’t really take the direct blame when a mass sacking occurs – rather they explain it with public language.

First, read the article here from December 2016:

It’s still relatively recent which means that you can use it in your exam and SAC and still be awarded high marks for originality!

Before I explain what is formal, have a read of the article and think to yourself: why would the company spokesperson use such formal language? Have a deep think about this. To give some context, sacking and firing are often taboo subjects (much like death, but not as severe), so when talking about it, one may often use euphemisms. Try and spot the euphemisms in the quotes from the spokesperson.

“Following a recent operational review, Australia’s largest private education provider of vocational education and training, Careers Australia, will move to consolidate its tele-sales function in 2017,” a company statement said.

This was the company’s official statement in response to the mass sacking. A few things to notice immediately:

  • Immense amount of public language such as ‘operational’, ‘function’, ‘provider’ etc. This helps to elevate the credibility and authority of the author
  • ‘Review’ as a syntactic nominalisation – in this case, the lexeme ‘review’ has been used as a noun instead of a verb, therefore making the text impersonal, distant and unclear. WHO conducted the review? Combine this with the adjective ‘operational’ to form ‘operational review’ and we have no idea what this actually means.
  • ‘Largest’ is an abstract euphemism – largest is in comparison to what? What defines large? Staff numbers, revenue, locations etc. It’s quite unclear, but definite exaggerates and makes it appear larger than it may be (but again in comparison to what – we’re not sure!).
  • ‘Consolidate’ is also a euphemism commonly used throughout the business domain to mean ‘sack’. But of course, in that context, businesses would rarely ever say the direct lexeme ‘sack’. This could be a positive face strategy, but in my opinion, it makes them seem insincere or unapologetic in their decision.

This sentence has a few other features that are peculiar to the obfuscatory function of formal language – what else can you identify? Think of elevated lexis of French/Latin origin etc…

I hope this helps you begin to SEE as opposed to just learning content. To do well in EL, you MUST SEE AND BE OBSERVANT and not just read the textbook. 

I highly recommend you also attend my upcoming workshop on formal language as I will be going through all of this in thorough detail, and help you CONCEPTUALLY UNDERSTAND formal language, not just be bored by it. 🙂 See the links below the image.


“Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend a holiday workshop for English Language. This workshop allowed me to further understand the topics prior to the knowledge I already had. The atmosphere was fantastic as it was interactive with both the students and Dmitri. I’m grateful to have this opportunity to attend such a wonderful workshop. I strongly encourage this workshop to those who want to achieve high marks in English Language!”

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VCE English Language – Obfuscation in Action!

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