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.”
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