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Plain English campaign news articles

Plain English Day 2012

It's Plain English Day on Friday, 14 December.

Each year, we present awards for the best and worst examples of English. The main awards recognise organisations and individuals who have genuinely made an effort to present themselves using clear and concise English. The infamous 'Golden Bull' and 'Foot in Mouth' awards inject a sense of mischief into the proceedings. All the award winners can expect to receive media coverage.

Go to our awards pages to view the winners for 2012

Chrissie takes up arms against voice recognition

Following reports that Birmingham City Council's automated phone system is unable to recognise Birmingham accents, Chrissie Maher, our founder commented:-

"The millions of pounds which goes into building these systems is just stupid.

Anyone calling a rent arrears department will be anxious and upset anyway but to then have their voice not recognised because of their accent is awful.

The Brummie accent is instantly recognisable and should be celebrated. You can bet the people who developed these systems are posh or from London."

Media coverage:-

Gaffe-happy Mitt’s a (mealy-mouthed) winner

He’s about to discover whether or not months on the campaign trail have paid off. Regardless of the outcome, Mitt Romney’s a way-out-in-front winner with us at Plain English Campaign as the only feasible candidate for our Foot in Mouth award.

Throughout 2012 Romney has managed to provide, with what might seem a keen satirist’s eye, potentially damaging gaffes on an alarmingly regular basis. And, following a faux-pas happy line of US politicians, always seems to have a steady stream of gibberish ready for the next particularly unsuitable opportunity.

Read more: Gaffe-happy Mitt’s a (mealy-mouthed) winner

Debenhams clears up coffee confusion

Debenhams has provided customers with a ‘plain English’ coffee menu, replacing potentially confusing terms such as ‘Cappuccino’ and ‘Caffe latte’ with ‘frothy coffee’ and ‘really really milky coffee’.

So, rather than ordering something that sounds exotic but which you’re not entirely sure about, you can now get precisely what you want in no uncertain terms.

Read more: Debenhams clears up coffee confusion

Universal confusion over Universal Credit?

One of the most important changes to the law in this country is due to come into effect in October next year. But straight-talking supporters of Plain English Campaign fear that few of the people who this law will be relevant to will understand how it will work.

Chrissie Maher, founder of the campaign, had this warning for the Department for Work and Pensions.

‘I have read the draft Universal Credit Regulations and the Briefing Notes. They are frightening. It is almost as if we haven’t been campaigning for clarity in public documents for all these years. The Government keeps referring to ‘clarity’ and to the use of ‘plain English’ in these – but at no point has the Department for Work and Pensions consulted us on this.

Read more: Universal confusion over Universal Credit?

On the soapbox

With our press officer, Marie, having no mobile reception while holidaying in Devon, I was left to take up the soap box last week. It was a whirlwind of radio and newspaper interviews with some hefty report readings that brought me headaches and a vivid reminder of why I've spent a lifetime shredding these documents and shouting Scouse curses at the jargon masters.

On Monday I woke up to the news that my cheques would no longer be acceptable. This wasn't because I've spent my entire pension, but because the banks felt it would be easier for them. The box came straight out and my trusty stand-in press officer Steve Jenner came to the rescue so that I could add my voice to the objections.

Of course it isn't about plain English and I'm the first to admit that I'm no financial whizz-kid. This isn't the Campaign trying to be financial experts, but just me having a say as a customer.

Read more: On the soapbox

Chrissie's comments

It's summer here in the UK, just in case you were wondering! I wanted to spread a little sunshine for those of you looking forward to the school holidays because there's still plenty to smile about, despite the never-ending rain and constant streams of jargon and gobbledygook.

First I hear on a radio programme about an NHS Trust banning the use of endearments and nicknames with elderly patients as it could be demeaning. It reminds me of that 'darling' and sadly now deceased, English comedian, Dick Emery and his comedy sketch where he objects to being called 'Madam' instead of 'Miss'. I'm sure that as an opinionated grandmother in her mid-seventies, I have been called a few things that I might object to, but for many of us older folk, we are just pleased when someone takes time to call us at all.

Today's papers tell us how one in four hospitals are breaking the law with poor care for elderly patients - an NHS Trust is being fined £35,000 for breaching the privacy of patients' details - a top doctor claims 130,000 elderly NHS patients are being killed as part of a Liverpool Care Pathway, a method of looking after terminally ill patients that is used in hospitals across the country. And the so-called experts are worried about respecting my dignity by banning the use of words like 'sweetie', 'dear' or 'darling'.

Read more: Chrissie's comments

Food labelling failing healthy eating

Plain English Campaign wants to lift the lid on food labelling that can be dangerously confusing. The Campaign feels that regulatory bodies and manufacturers in the UK have lost the plot when it comes to food labelling. Tiny text with figures and words from a science laboratory can drive customers away from the supermarket shelves, instead of increasing sales and helping the customer.

A typical pot of cottage cheese can bombard shoppers with information that can be unclear and unhelpful in making healthy choices. Foodstuff measurements alone come in all forms and combinations - percentages, fractions, kcal, kJ, and g, and don’t forget your GDA and RDA.

As well as the numbers and calculations, the shopper has to deal with scientific terms and industry abbreviations that could add to your weight, as well as your frustration.

Read more: Food labelling failing healthy eating

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