Government Latin Ban #Anglish #PlainEnglish

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The British government has banned Latin abbreviations on its websites. The Government Digital Service (GDS) has highlighted the need to more fully follow ‘plain English’ principles.

We promote the use of plain English on GOV.UK. We advocate simple, clear language. Terms like e.g., i.e. and etc, while common, make reading difficult for some.

Persis Howe, GDS content manager

Not everyone is happy, though. Roger Wemyss Brooks, of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, said the following.

Latin is part of our cultural heritage and it’s part of the basis of English. It unites us with other cultures throughout Europe and the world who have a connection with the Romance languages.

For my part, I think this is a good move. Particularly since most English speakers don’t seem to be able to use “e.g.”, “i.e.”, and so on correctly. As the Society for Plain English concludes:

We always suggest that writers remove Latin terms from all their text, particularly web text. Using such terms can suggest laziness and insincerity, and there’s never a justifiable reason to use them rather than clearer alternatives.

I have a general rule: if you do not know what “e.g.” and “i.e.” stand for (the answers are “exempli gratia” and “id est”), and you cannot be sure that all of your readership knows either, then don’t use them.

Goodbye e.g., i.e., etc., viz., hello example, that is, and so on, namely/to wit.

Also, read my article Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc Et Alia.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

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