Osborne memorial award

We set up this award to honour the memory of Geoffrey Osborne, a benefactor and great supporter of the Campaign. The award goes to an individual or organisation making a major contribution to the plain English cause.

A plain-speaking man

As a voice of the grassroots, Plain English Campaign could not have asked for a more appropriate contributor than Geoffrey Osborne, a plain-speaking man born to a farming family in Dorset. He had no time for gobbledygook or legalese and when illness forced him into a new career, his love of learning and language led him into teaching.

When further illness prevented him from working altogether he kept his mind alert by reading and writing. For all his learning, Geoff was still a sociable and down-to-earth man who loved the English language.

Living alone, but with many neighbours, he loved to debate the correct use and meaning of words. Along with the diaries he kept were a number of dictionaries which he regularly had re-covered as they became worn with constant use.

The memorial award and the research work benefiting from Geoff’s generosity are a true gift to the people he inspired and enlightened with his teachings and opinions. Like Chrissie Maher, the Campaign’s founder, Geoff believed in communicating with straight speaking and a sense of humour.

Osborne Memorial award 2012

This year’s Osborne Memorial award went posthumously to Christopher Hitchens.

For his apolitical railing against both anti-democratic acts and muddled or purposefully obscure communication, and for braving, for publications such as Vanity Fair and Slate, pretty much every dangerous part of the world in the name of uncovering and articulating various worldwide horrors.

His elegant yet accessible essays and books are a peerless guide to deeply confused and confusing times, and he was a vitally important commentator, shedding light on shadowy figures, regimes and geopolitical issues, and bringing extremely complex matters of enormous importance into the public domain. Mr Hitchens shared a lot of principles with Plain English Campaign, though in particular: a demand for fairness, transparency and clarity; a hatred of mumbo-jumbo and jargon; and a deep desire to uncover those perpetrating terrible injustices and lies.

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