Plain English campaign news articles
Plain English Campaign declares war on 'buzzwords'
- Created on Monday, 03 March 2008 01:00
An article by Bill Jamieson in ‘The Scotsman’ has highlighted the way in which ‘Newspeak’ has invaded Scottish life.
The author received a ‘deluge’ of responses, all featuring specific examples. Political ‘buzzwords’ and phrases like ‘policy-based evidence’, ‘consensus’, ‘partnership working’ and ‘connectivity’ came in for particular criticism.
Plain English Campaign has made comments in the media several times about this issue recently and has decided enough is enough. Campaign spokesperson Steve Jenner said today:
“It is frequently suggested to us in interviews that it is acceptable for people to use buzzwords and phrases in the workplace. We don’t think it is. There are a number of reasons why.”
“If a council, health authority or other large organisation holds a training event, the ‘delegates’ are more likely to spend their time playing ‘buzzword bingo’. This is amusing until you remember these events are funded by public money.”
“It also breeds terrible cynicism about the political process. Bill Jamieson credits a contributor for pointing out that ‘public consultation’ and ‘have your say’ usually mean the exact opposite. We have looked at a number of ‘public consultations’ this year which suggest exactly that. We applaud Bill’s ‘overarching purpose’ in writing this article.”
“We also call on all public agencies, political organisations and private companies throughout Scotland to run plain English training sessions. These could feature as part of forthcoming training events. A good starting point would be for each organisation to identify a top ten list of buzzwords or phrases it uses. And then come up with a plain English alternative list.”
Gordon Brown accused of 'patronising response'
- Created on Thursday, 28 February 2008 01:00
The Prime Minister responded, saying that “the consultation is there for the public to involve themselves in” and “I hope people will vigorously join the consultation”.
“This is a totally patronising response,” said Campaign spokesman Steve Jenner. “The Prime Minister just seemed to ignore the issue raised. The consultation document may be ‘there for the public to involve themselves in’ but that just isn’t good enough. Any old rubbish can be ‘there’. And that’s what this document is. Anyone who thinks this is a suitable document for public consultation is holding the public in contempt."
“How can ‘people vigorously join the consultation’ when the document looks as if it has been designed to exclude people from participating?"
“It should be possible to read, understand and act on a consultation document after one reading. I would challenge anyone to do that with this particular document. Irrespective of the rights or wrongs of the Heathrow expansion plans, consultation carried out in this way is just undemocratic."
“Once again we would urge a re – think; this document is not fit for the purpose for which it was intended. We ask the government to withdraw this document and offer a genuine consultation to interested parties.”
Maher calls for withdrawal of Heathrow consultation document
- Created on Monday, 25 February 2008 01:00
The founding director of Plain English Campaign, Chrissie Maher, has slammed the government over the Heathrow expansion consultation document. Speaking at the campaign’s headquarters in Derbyshire earlier this week, she described the document as ‘atrocious’.
Susan Kramer, MP for Richmond Park sent a copy of the document to the campaign. “This document effectively takes away human rights,” said Chrissie. “No ordinary person with an interest in the plans to expand Heathrow could be expected to read and understand this.”
Chrissie found several faults in the document, including the following:
- Excessive jargon in the summary, such as ‘periodic emissions cost assessment’ and ‘external climate change costs.’
- Huge assumptions about the reader’s knowledge of government policy.
- Jargon specific to particular professions, such as ‘net present value terms’ and ‘mixed mode operations’.
- An unclear introduction in Section A of the document.
- Section B makes use of terms which are not familiar to most people.
- Section D uses technical terminology such as ‘operation of runway rotation’.
“How can this be a true consultation if most readers cannot understand the document? We’ve seen this time and time again - local councils and government departments are always launching ‘consultations’. But they are not real consultations because they design them in such a way that most people are unable to take part.”
“After all these years of our campaigning, the Government should realise they can’t treat people with the contempt shown in the past. Unfortunately, once again we see more proof that this is not always the case. We are not ‘taking sides’ in the debate, but it is so important that in a democracy, consultations are genuine. People must have a fair chance to understand the documents put before them. Otherwise they cannot tell you what they really think.
“I am calling on the Department of Transport to withdraw and redraft this document.”
Steve McClaren scores another own goal with Foot in Mouth award
- Created on Monday, 10 December 2007 01:00
Unemployed Steve McClaren has received another blow while he counts his two million pound payoff. The ex-England boss has won the Plain English Campaign’s Foot in Mouth Award for this piece of footballing wisdom:
'He (Wayne Rooney) is inexperienced, but he's experienced in terms of what he's been through.'
He wins the award despite strong entries from George Bush and Jeremy Kyle.
Last year Naomi Campbell joined previous winners Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Gere and Tracey Emin as the public figure who had made the most baffling comment.
Seven Golden Bulls have been awarded this year, including one to Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains for a response from the company about problems booking online. UKTV have won one for an extremely enthusiastic press release about their new channel, ‘Dave’. In a year where silly signs seem to have dominated the news, BAA at Gatwick Airport have won a Golden Bull for a fine example.
Top comedian and TV personality Lenny Henry will present the awards at the Brewery, Chiswell Street, London EC1Y 4SD on 11 December 2007. It will be the 28th annual Plain English awards ceremony.
Winners of Plain English Awards include Liverpool Housing Trust for their ‘Pictorial Tenancy Agreement’ and Alistair Macintosh, Huart Tai Huang and Geoffrey Holden FRICS for their ‘Guide to surveyors’ jargon.’ Stockport Women’s Aid will also pick up a Plain English Award for an advice booklet.
The National School of Government and the Forestry Commission are amongst the winners for the Inside Write Awards. These are given to government departments for clear internal communication.
Media winners include the first International Media award winner, Bruce Hill from the Australian Broadcasting Company, and BBC Five Live’s Midday News which scooped ‘Best National Radio programme’. Teletext has won the Osborne Award for their contribution to plain English.
Lack of clarity earns 0% for families
- Created on Thursday, 17 July 2008 15:18
Revelations from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) market study released today have reinforced the damning criticisms about bank charges that continue to arrive at Plain English Campaign from members of the public. Based on the OFT findings, the lack of clarity in some communications is a major reason for banks having poor relationships with customers.
While many banks acknowledge that plain language enables better financial management for both themselves and their customers, there is an obvious need for legislation in this area to ensure consistency for the customer.
Financial organisations have a responsibility to answer and help people as part of their service. But the current financial climate has highlighted that unclear and misleading information can cause peope financial hardship. For instance, recent customer marketing from one major bank claims to counteract the effects of the 'credit crunch' by offering emergency funds. In fact these funds are no more than an addititional overdraft facility at a hugely inflated interest rate.
Plain English Campaign's founder Chrissie Maher OBE said, "The grass roots issue here is that clear communications can make the difference between a family being out on the street, or them getting through this period of economic challenge. Our key message is that clear communications empower the individual."
"Many organisations, particularly in the finance industry, already recognise the valuable contributions that crystal-clear language can offer in preventing the confusion around unnecessary and excessive charges. Over the coming months we will continue working with the banks and other consumer groups, and have offered our services to the OFT on this matter in the hope of achieving greater clarity, consistency and transparency throughout the industry."