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Plain English campaign news articles

War on buzzwords (18 February 2008)

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.”

Campaign Joins Times columnist in demand for straight talk

The Times columnist Rosemary Behan savaged a handful of government ministers in her column today. And Plain English Campaign is calling on ministers to heed her words as the Campaign Awards ceremony approaches.

She accuses Jacqui Smith, Hazel Blears and Dawn Primarolo of ‘blathering’ and ‘mechanical, mindless drivel’. Her comments come following an interview with Jacqui Smith by John Humphrys. In answer to a question about the charging of terrorist suspects the MP said “Well, the first thing to say, John, is that these form part of a range of proposals that we put forward for consultation before the summer and we are serious about involving people in that consultation, which is why we’ve had a series of regional seminars about this, it’s why I’ve talked to the Opposition, it’s why we’ve talked to groups about these implications…”

“All politicians – and particularly those in government – should take note of the Rosemary Behan’s comments” says campaign spokesman Steve Jenner.

“Listeners will not be patronised and newspaper readers will not accept platitudes. Plain English does not mean simple and meaningless – it means clear communication. Rosemary Behan cites empty phrases like ‘moving forward’, ‘actively reaching out’, ‘progressing research’ and ‘resolve to build a consensus’ as examples of mindless politico-babble. The old saying ‘say what you mean, mean what you say and stop’ has no more important place than in government.”

The Plain English Awards ceremony takes place in London on 11 December this year. Lenny Henry will present the Campaign awards.

Plain English watchdog applauds Parliament web centre work

The Parliament Web Centre has changed the design of the Bills before Parliament pages. Plain English Campaign has scrutinised these pages and declared them 'a great improvement'.

"This is clearly the result of testing and listening to feedback from people using these pages", said Plain English Campaign’s Steve Jenner.

"It is clear that Harriet Harman was serious when she said she wanted Parliament to communicate more clearly with the people. We applaud these efforts to make the path to reading and understanding planned legislation more straightforward."

The new pages are available at http://services.parliament.uk/bills. The government is also inviting comments on the changes and for further suggestions: webmaster@parliament.uk

Plain English Campaign urges media boycott of jargon

Plain English Campaign has slammed a government statement which refers to ‘worklessness’. It is urging a news boycott of organisations which feed the press and broadcast media with information littered with jargon and gobbledygook.

“So do we take it that from now on a low birth rate in an area will be referred to as ‘pregnantlessness?’ asks a Plain English Campaign spokesperson. “ And it isn’t the only example of abuse of language in this statement.”

The statement continues by ‘explaining’ that ‘The new plans will enable local government to transcend traditional administrative and structural boundaries and deliver solutions that cover entire commuter routes, housing and employment markets for the first time through Multi Area Agreements (MAAs).’

“Ignoring the possibility that entire commuter routes covered by solutions might be a risk to road traffic, this is a press release from the government. Plain English Campaign is urging media organisations to reject gobbledygook and jargon, wherever it comes from.”

Sign the 'Crystal Clear Broadband' petition

Plain English Campaign have become an official partner in a new campaign for fairer broadband deals for UK customers. Computer Active magazine, which launched its'Crystal Clear Broadband' campaign last week, hope that it will put pressure on government and regulators to force companies to advertise typical broadband speeds rather than theoretical ones. Recently, a survey showed that nearly two-thirds of consumers are achieving less than half of the advertised download speeds from internet service providers (ISPs).

Our spokesman said "many people find modern technology complicated enough without having to plough through small print and jargon. Broadband companies have a responsibility to be honest with their customers and not rip them off."

Nearly 6000 people have signed the petition on the 10 Downing Street website, and the campaign has attracted support from several MPs, including Conservative MP, George Young. The communications regulator Ofcom also welcomed the campaign and said it was raising awareness among consumers about the issues of speed and technical limitations of broadband.

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