Plain English

October 1, 2014


In a previous post (Rationalisation Measures), I mentioned the Plain English Campaign. They advocate Plain English by, for example, awarding “Crystal Clear” certificates to businesses which regularly use plain English and by exposing nonsense English with their version of the Oscar — the Golden Bull Award.

They do not stand for Saxon English, only plain English. But as you know, plain English is the best, and the best is Saxon… usually.

Their website is great and has many resources on it. One is a little tool which allows you to choose a buzz phrase and replace it with plain English. Some personal highlights (I’ll probably add more):

accelerate speed up
accommodation where you live, home
accompanying with
afford an opportunity let, allow
possessions belongings
reimburse pay back
subsequently later
supplementary extra, more
the question as to whether whether
to the extent that if, when
unavailability lack of
utilisation use
we have pleasure in we are glad to

I call on all people who read my blog (that’s you, Mum) to encourage organisations that they are involved in to get hooked up with the Plain English Campaign. At the very least, get people to make use of the tool I just talked about.

Here’s an idea. Of course, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to jeopardise their livelihood, but if you were to print out your boss’ emails and replace all the jargon, perhaps grade your boss’ English, anonymously, you might be doing a serious public service… P.S. the dole ain’t so bad.

© 2014 Bryan A. J. Parry

Rationalisation Measures

August 14, 2014

The company that runs my workplace is changing. The new company recently sent a document through to all staff. This is such delightful gibberish that I just had to share it.

CENSORED* will be a clustered model which may result in the requirement for less staff to undertake certain jobs where rationalisation can be achieved by combining roles and responsibilities or due to the terms of the contract resulting in the requirement for less staff in certain areas.

Wow. I mean… wow. Words fail me. There’s so much wrong with this sentence — and yes, check it out again, that is one sentence! Some lowlights:

  • 46 words + in sentence
  • “…clustered model…”
  • “…where rationalisation can be achieved…”

And the document just goes on and on.

But to be fair to my (new) company, this type of language is standard. But standard or not, it just isn’t on. There was a genius quote in the Evening Standard** by Lucy Tobin recently. She’s slagging off email etiquette, particularly that of employers(!) I want to share one of the zingers she comes out with:

This is what happens when managers who learned “how to deal with people” in a two-day module at business school are released into the community.

!!! Brilliant! And I’m keeping a clipping of this article for future students — and bosses! (yes, I’m an English teacher).

So, back to where I began. Instead of the, frankly, offensive drivel that my new employers splurged into my inbox, how about this?

We will group CENSORED*. We may lay some people off in some areas, if we can, because it is cheaper to get two people to do three people’s jobs.

My version isn’t the pithiest or the best you could come out with. And it isn’t pure Anglish, either. But that’s the point: I just splunked that off, but it is still shorter and makes far more sense. It also doesn’t patronise people with nonsense euphemisms like “rationalisation” and “combining roles and responsibilities”.

So there we have it. In other news, here’s the Plain English Campaign’s website.


*Company and work location deleted.
**Tuesday 29 July 2014, p15 Comment.

© 2014 Bryan A. J. Parry

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