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Plain English campaign news articles

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

Warning: Nuts repeat on you

An action team set up by Plain English Campaign is keeping watch over the poor communications in food labelling this year. The nuttiest find so far is on a chocolate selection card.

Chocolate-lovers can read no fewer than eight mentions about the nut content in the chocolate menu selection alone. Further details on the back of the Cadbury Milk Tray box go on to give the full ingredients and nutritional values, once more including the nuts.

Warnings are essential for allergy sufferers. But with three of the ten chocolates listed already containing the word ‘nut’ in their menu names, Plain English Campaign is puzzled by this need for such frequent repetition.

Read more: Warning: Nuts repeat on you

Award nominations

Plain English Campaign is accepting nominations for their 2012 Golden Bull awards, and two outstanding EU examples of gobbledygook have been received today. The first is from an EU office, 'The Directorate General Information Society and Media (DG INFSO)' and the second from the Spanish central bank, 'The Bank of Spain'.

The first example from the EU website tells us that ordinary 'thinking' and 'doing' is simply not enough in a digital future. We think that 'prepare for reflections' and 'anticipatory thinking' means plain old 'thinking ahead'! There probably isn't much space left on the 'time horizon' for that though, with all the 'envisaging of scenarios', 'generating of policy options ' and 'inspiring of strategic choices'.

"The project envisages scenarios on a time horizon 2040-50 and generates ideas and policy options with a view to inspire future strategic choices of DG INFSO and the Commission."

Read more: Award nominations

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