Sunday, June 22, 2008

In support of plain English

Who knew there was a National Plain English Day? There is, in the UK at least, and last December, the Local Government Association celebrated by publishing the LGA ‘non-word’ list, 100 words that all public sector bodies should avoid when talking to people about the work they do and the services they provide. Words on the list include: coterminosity, empowerment, multidisciplinary, place shaping, and sustainable communities. The LGA suggests that unless "local authorities talk to people in a language that they can understand then the work they do becomes inaccessible and reduces the chances of them getting involved in their local issues."

Chairman of the Local Government Association, Sir Simon Milton, said:“Plain English Day is a timely reminder for all of us that we can not, must not and should not hide behind impenetrable jargon and phrases...Why do we have to have ‘coterminous, stakeholder engagement’ when we could just ‘talk to people’ instead?“

The list is back in the news this month because a local council in England wanted to ban the word "brainstorming" to avoid offending epileptics and replace it with "thought showers."

It's a good lesson for business writers, consultants, and managers, too. Although I would hate to give up "stakeholder" which has always reminded me of killing vampires.

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