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Plain English campaign news articles

The Independent calls for an end to gobbledygook language on food

Follow this link to see an article written by Brian Farmer in The Independent on 21 December 2008.

Plain English Campaign fully supports clear and honest communications because they help people to make informed decisions.
Plain English Campaign has been fighting for clearer communications in food labelling since 1999.

Read more: The Independent calls for an end to gobbledygook language on food

New Plain English Campaign Website

As you can see, we have recently moved to a new web page design. We apologise for any temporary errors that occur whilst we are updating, but hope that you will like the new design and improved features.

Read more: New Plain English Campaign Website

Barking mad? Marking mad!

Plain English Campaign has highlighted the poorly-marked Standard Assessment Tests (SATS) released by a Lancashire head teacher as an example of the plummeting literacy standards in schools. Janis Burden, of Moss Side Primary in Chorley, revealed that an essay littered with spelling and grammatical errors had received a higher mark than another, more literate one.

The campaign’s media advisor, Steve Jenner, said: “The marking of English SATs has been a standing joke in the teaching profession for years. Many teachers see the SATs, their administration, preparation and marking as a national scandal. They are often badly marked and returned late to schools. Teenagers who haven’t passed their A-levels have been employed to mark papers. This means that results are often called into question by the schools, and parents don’t have a reliable indication of how well their child has actually done.”

The SATs marking system has already run into serious problems, with MPs and senior teachers expressing concerns about the company appointed by the government to mark the tests. Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, has refused to apologise for the debacle.

Steve Jenner added “We congratulate Janis Burden on taking a stand. To award higher marks to papers containing lots of mistakes is frankly ridiculous. It is time for ministers to take action to make sure this sort of thing stops. We need to have a real debate about the best way to teach our children how to read and write. And SAT markers should have the relevant subject knowledge and expertise.”

The 10p tax band explained

Here at Plain English Campaign we ponder over letters and their meaning and can usually make some sense of the most challenging jargon and gobbledygook.

But when it comes to numbers we have to hold our hands up in despair on occasion – for example if asked to explain the 10% (10p) tax band.

Fortunately, we have access to accounting expertise and we have set out below a clear explanation of the tax band change for people who are struggling to understand it. In 2007/2008 everyone who earned enough was entitled to the 10% tax band (on the first £2,230 of income above the personal allowance).

In 2008/2009 the loss of this tax band will cost extra tax on most salaries up to £16,499. Most people earning more than £16,500 will pay less tax.

From 6 April 2008 the amount you can earn before you start to pay tax has been raised from £5,225 a year to £5,435. At the same time the 10% tax rate has ended and the basic rate of tax has been lowered from 22% to 20%.

So, as an example, if your wage was £8,000 in tax year 2007/2008, after taking away your tax free allowance of £5,225 you would have paid tax on £2,775 (£8,000 minus £5,225).

The first £2,230 would have been taxed at 10% which equals £223.
The remaining £545 would have been taxed at 22% which equals £119.90
So you would have paid £342.90 tax on the £8,000 you earned in 2007/2008.

With the new tax rates, if your wage is still £8,000 in 2008/2009, after taking away your tax free allowance of £5,435 (raised from £5,225 in 2007/2008), you will pay tax on £2,565, at 20% which equals £513. So you will have £170.10 less this year than last (£513 - £342.90).
This is £14.17 less each month.

In 2008/2009, most people earning less than £16,500 will be worse off after tax than they were in 2007/2008 and those earning £16,500 and above could be better off.

Recent survey results from national media sources shows that in 2007 the 1,000 wealthiest people in Britain had a total wealth of £412 billion (£412,000 million). That is four times more than they had in 1997.

Police forces accused of using 'ploddledygook'

Plain English Campaign is calling on the country’s police forces to return to basics – starting with the language used to communicate with the public. The campaign has noticed an increase in the number of complaints it receives about police communication, particularly slogans.

Statements about standard policing are made into 'revelatory' slogans such as ‘Committed to fighting crime’ or 'Keeping you safe'. Other taglines such as “Putting you First” and “Our focus is you” suggest an extra commitment to the tax–payer. Forces are also adopting new jargon such as 'Citizen-focused command centre', and referring to members of the public as 'customers'.

Campaigners argue that as police jargon-busters exist on a number of police websites, forces must already know that explanations are needed for some of their commonly-used terms. They say that the longer people have to fight their way through this sort of meaningless jargon, the less they pay attention to the real issues.

PEC spokeswoman Marie Clair said: "It is reminiscent of politicians announcing that they are ‘taking the terrorist threat very seriously’ and that ‘education is a top priority’. You can’t argue with the sentiment, but the repetition of a widely accepted ‘truism’ isn't acceptable as a replacement for clearly–stated policy.”

She added: "Do the public really understand terms such as 'County Delivery Unit'? It sounds more like a milk round than policing. It seems that administrative confusion is hitting our streets when we really need to spend the resources on policing. Maybe this Ploddledygook is the latest weapon against the criminals - it certainly had me floored."

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