Plain English campaign news articles

Did jargon cause the 'Credit Crunch'?

Many of us will have watched the recent Channel 4 documentary on ‘Dispatches – How the banks went bust’ with feelings of helplessness, disbelief and frustration.

The comments made by the financial experts contributing to the programme were like Plain English Campaign’s predictions over the past 30 years. But there was little satisfaction for us in knowing that language had been exploited and misused to such an extent as to contribute to the economic disaster being felt on a worldwide scale.

Read more: Did jargon cause the 'Credit Crunch'?

High level Ploddledygook tops jargon charts with 102-word sentence

Plain English Campaign have a hot runner for their Golden Bull awards for 2009 with this 102-word quote taken from the Association of Chief Police Officer's (ACPO) response to the Government’s green paper on policing.

Read more: High level Ploddledygook tops jargon charts with 102-word sentence

Plain English Campaign tells all governments to speak the language of the people

Repeated criticisms have been made by some MPs and the public, about the need for clearer communications from the Prime Minister. Plain English Campaign is responding to the call for our leaders to speak the language of the people. As part of it’s 30-year fight against jargon and gobbledygook, the Campaign is offering free plain English training courses to every MP and minister throughout the UK.

There are over 700 representatives of our nation in the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The documented MPs’ discussions in Hansard’s parliamentary reporting shows how frequently concerns are raised about jargon and bad communication. It is unsurprising then that these frustrations and confusion are multiplied by the time information reaches the public.

Chrissie Maher OBE, founder of the Derbyshire based Campaign says, “The word ‘gobbledygook’ comes from descriptions of government communications. The end of turkey talk is long overdue. Give us plain English. It’s clear, it’s honest, it’s what our government and our nation need right now.”

In 1983, as part of the Rayner Review, the Thatcher government reviewed hundreds of thousands of government documents. In 2009, efforts continue with two public inquiries about the state of public communications from Parliament and government offices. But it is time to take action from the very top. Once again, the Campaign recommends plain English training in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The Duke of Devonshire, also Chancellor to the University of Derby, spoke from his home at Chatsworth in Derbyshire to say, “We have an individual and moral responsibility to communicate clearly whatever our business. It’s never too late to remember the basics of good, clear English, its part of our heritage.”

Peter Gallimore, spokesperson for the University of Derby added, “Plain English training sessions are being launched at the University this year for MPs, businesses, or anyone wanting to communicate clearly. It’s a great start to the plans for the University to work with Plain English Campaign.”

Clarity commitment in US loses small print

US President Obama made his expectations clear in meetings last week in further attempts to tackle the current credit crisis.  As part of long-awaited reforms, he supported the move for the US credit-card companies to do away with their fine-print regulations. This accompanied further positive news for US borrowers as the Bank of America agreed to provide the terms of their mortgage loans on a one-page summary written in 'simple English'.  

Plain English Campaign sent a letter of support to the US President.  We await the reactions of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, to the idea that plain English could bring clarity and honesty to the financial gobbledygook, whyich causes so many problems.

There are organisations in the UK’s finance sector who independently provide 'plain English' communications to the public.  But there is currently no legislation that imposes shared guidelines for clear communications.  People's mistrust of legal language and small print is a complaint we often hear at our offices.

Harriet Harman’s Equalities Bill was recently released with plain English explanatory notes to accompany the legal wording.  It is a step in the right direction for the UK Government and Parliament.  But no organisation, whether in the public or private sector, can afford to ignore any opportunity to renew the public’s faith in the communications of our leaders and experts.  Legislation and small print exist to protect everyone involved.  It makes plain sense to use plain language that can be plainly understood and trusted.

Chrissie Maher, founder of Plain English Campaign, says, “Everyone has the right to understand information they are given.  Whether it’s about understanding the terms of your expense claims, mortgage terms or credit agreements, plain English can save embarrassment, time, despair and money.  So bring on the plain English in the UK – it is our language after all.”

Scottish policeman calls for plain English

Plodding on with the jargon

Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary have received a pat on the back from Plain English Campaign for pressing the need for plain language. Chrissie Maher, OBE and founder of the campaign is adding her voice to support the proposal made at the 2009 Scottish Police Federation Annual Conference for "a return to plain English".

Read more: Scottish policeman calls for plain English

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