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Foreign Office plainly rumbled

At last year's Plain English Campaign awards, a Golden Bull was awarded to the Foreign Commonwealth Office for a jargon-filled job description. The FCO graciously acknowledged that plain English was a better way to communicate and even produced their plain English translation of the original text, which can be seen on our Golden Bull 2010 winners page.

Below is their reply:

"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office attaches importance to clear communication, particularly with the British public.

This document, although for internal use with a specialist audience, did not meet these standards. Like the many other organisations who have received "Golden Bull" awards in the past, we accept it in the spirit in which it was intended - an encouragement to us to do better.

We would be grateful if you would publish this response and the translation below.

Original text:
Maintenance and development of the UK narrative around FCO and its value proposition, using insights from research and evaluation as well as knowledge of the evolving FCO strategy to inform resonant messaging.

Plain English translation:
Work out better ways of telling people what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office does.

Since our awards, we have been sent this news by a supporter, who noticed an entry in the Parliamentary discussions listed on Hansard:

Departmental Communication

Alok Sharma: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he has taken to reduce jargon and promote plain English in Departmental communications. [35785]

Alistair Burt: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) aims to be as clear as possible in all its communication. Ministers and the FCO Board launched a diplomatic excellence initiative in November 2010 which will ensure there is a sharper focus on the use of precise, accurate English and avoiding jargon.

As our supporter commented, "A 'diplomatic excellence initiative' to 'ensure there is a sharper focus'. Indeed."

Nevertheless, Plain English Campaign will be providing every support possible to the FCO in their effort to use plain English. And it shows how with every lighthearted Golden Bull nominated by the public, there is increasing pressure for serious change by those in power.

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