Plain English campaign news articles

Too few houses, too many words

The housing market is being attacked on all fronts with buyers struggling to get mortgages and house prices dropping by £200 each day in the last month alone.

This means the rental market is under greater pressure.Tenants and landlords are faced with worrying contractual responsibilities. Landlords face the possibility of being caught with a tenant and no rent as a result of unemployment and redundancies. Equally, tenants face confusion over their responsibilities in times of crisis. And where there is confusion, there is opportunity for some to take advantage of the vulnerable – whether landlords or tenants.

Read more: Too few houses, too many words

Plain English and the HMRC

Plain English won't solve this one, but plain common sense is a start

Despite the current tax-code fiasco, and the ensuing media backlash, in the last 15 years Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) have made some surprising and impressive improvements to their communications with taxpayers.

When Plain English Campaign started, we were involved with reviewing hundreds of thousands of government documents. Some of these documents included tax information and we were proud to welcome HMRC on board as one of our earliest corporate members. We eventually worked on a major document
- 'How to fill in your tax return' - in 1996 and have trained many HMRC employees since then.

This gives us all the more reason to feel extremely disappointed by recent public communications from HMRC, as those early years of investment and effort appear to have been forgotten.

Chrissie Maher, founder of Plain English Campaign, says, 'This isn't the first time that the campaign has had to give the tax system a good shaking.
Only a couple of years ago we provided a plain English explanation of the 10p tax band after we were overwhelmed with complaints from the public.

Read more: Plain English and the HMRC

Chrissie stands out for women with plain English

Chrissie stands out for women with plain English

Chrissie Maher OBE, was selected as winner of the Public Affairs category from an overwhelming number of nominations for the ‘Women in Public Life’ awards. The event was hosted by BBC presenter, Sian Willams for the Dods and Scottish Widows 2010 awards and held a further surprise for Chrissie when she was also selected for the category of ‘Outstanding achiever of the year’.

(Clicking on a photo will show a larger version, with more information.)

Read more: Chrissie stands out for women with plain English

Not plain English in nature

Every so often the public remind us why the campaign exists in a way that leaves no question about the need for plain English.

Photo of sign located on the border between Chadderton and Royton along the A663, Broadway - courtesy of Damian Slevin

Photo of sign located on the border between Chadderton and Royton along the A663, Broadway - courtesy of Damian Slevin

Read more: Not plain English in nature

At least tell us plainly if you are ripping us off!

Bank customers are losing confidence in our banking system. Every day there are stories about the less than honest practices some of our banks adopt.
For any industry receiving 11,000 complaints a day there is a clear message that does not need a plain English explanation.

A common complaint is that attractive interest rates offered when a new account is opened disappear within months to be replaced by a very low rate. The change will have been announced to customers within the inside pages of certain newspapers, as the law requires, but most customers will not be aware of it. If they don't know, they will not have the chance to change their account and will be stuck with low interest on their investment. It does raise a suspicion that maybe the banks don't want us to notice the announcements.

And if we do notice an announcement in a newspaper, will we understand it?

Read more: At least tell us plainly if you are ripping us off!

Our coffee cup overflows with jargon

A number of people have complained to us that they cannot get a 'small' measure of coffee and are often only given the choice between a 'regular' or 'large'. Costa Coffee label their sizes as 'primo', 'medio' and 'assimo' - translating to small, medium and large. Coffee Republic and Caffe Nero use 'small' and 'regular', and so it goes on.

It's about image, competition and perhaps a little bit about what the food industry calls 'product sabotage' - when a company deliberately drives customers towards certain products at the cost of not promoting other, possibly better, options.

Read more: Our coffee cup overflows with jargon

Everybody matters in public affairs

Chrissie Maher, founder of Plain English Campaign, was thrilled to hear that she has been shortlisted for the Women in Public Life Awards 2010.  Chrissie has been nominated for the Public Affairs Achiever of the Year category as a result of her years of campaigning for clear public information.

The Dods and Scottish Widows Women in Public Life Awards celebrate women leaders in society and aim to recognise and promote the work of women in politics, business, the civil service and community leadership.  The ceremony will be held at The Northumberland in London WC2 on Thursday 23 September.

Chrissie considers any honour she receives to be recognition of the support and encouragement shown by supporters of her campaigning.

This nomination has prompted Chrissie to revive the campaign's 'Every Body Matters' awards as one of the categories in the annual Plain English Campaign Awards to be held in December 2010.

Read more: Everybody matters in public affairs

Financial jargon

Plain English Campaign are supporting the campaign from Consumer Focus Wales to get rid of financial gobbledygook.

Chrissie Maher says, “It’s disgraceful that banks and insurance companies have such a hold over us through their use of language. Often it means the customer is left with little clarity, and all the responsibility.  Terms and conditions, credit-card agreements, overdraft letters - they might as well be in a foreign language. English is my first language and I struggle with this financial gobbledygook.  Goodness knows how anyone with English as a second language can cope.”

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