Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Plain English

I've been reading journal articles again. Still. Whatever. And sometimes, the language is so obscure. It's as if the authors think they'll look smarter by using long words and the most convoluted phrasing possible.

But: it seems that someone has heard my prayers to the Gods of Language: it's The Plain English Campaign !!

Ta daaaah! Based in the UK, they are at my rescue, with a mission to make sure that information is expressed is clearly as possible. They've helped all sorts of organizations, including UK government departments make sure that their public info can be understood by, uh, the public.

I think my favorite parts of the website are the gobbldygook generator, which lets you create "empty, meaningless phrases" with the click of a mouse, and the Golden Bull archive, which lists winners of an annual award presented for the worst examples of real gobbledygook.
An example to whet your appetite:

Central Manchester and Manchester Children’s University Hospitals NHS Trust for an Agenda for Change document

'Where the combined value of the above payments before actual assimilation remains greater than the combined value of the payments after assimilation, the former level of pay will be protected. These protection arrangements apply to the combined value of payments before and after assimilation, not to individual pay components, excepting the provision relating to retention of existing on-call arrangements.



Caroline said...

I was just thinking about this at work. So many meaningless turns of phrases and words are used in every field! The problem is, we get so used to them, we start using them inadvertedly! For example, how about my job title -"Knowledge Exchange Officer"?!

Happy Owl said...

I think I'll submit your job title to the Plain English people and get them to tell me what it is you really do!! ;)

Actually, hmmm. What should your job title be, then?

"Information central"? Tee hee...

Heather said...

I'm all for this! I get a non native speaker to proof read all my stuff, as soon as there's something in there they don't understand I change it. I want people to be able to understand what I write! Now - back to an incredibly cryptic paper I'm reviewing... I'm drowning in "permits to quantify" , azimuthal, and several other interesting turns of phrase.