Writing and speaking in plain English
NOWADAYS, much emphasis is placed on the importance of communication. Young people who are looking for jobs are often told that employers are looking for employees who can speak and write clearly and effectively. Yet, many official communications are anything but clear. They are often confusing and sometimes incomprehensible.
In recent years, there have been several campaigns in the English-speaking world to persuade governments, and people in general, to speak and write in plain English. Recently the Plain Language Commission in Britain has complained about the unclear language used by the European Commission in their documents.
In order to show how these can be made simpler and more straightforward, Martin Cutts of the Plain Language Commission has rewritten one of the European Commission’s documents, a directive on toy safety, removing some of the complex and obscure language and shortening some of the long, rambling sentences. Having thus made the document much more intelligible, he then had it sent back to the European Commission.
Lawyers and those in official posts are often blamed for failing to write in English that is readily understandable by all, but they are not the only culprits by any means. Many people, when writing a formal report of some kind or addressing a formal meeting, use more difficult words and more involved sentences than they would normally do. They probably feel that doing so makes them appear more impressive or more intelligent, but the pretentious language and the long-winded sentences just make it difficult for their audiences to understand their meaning.
Such use of pretentious language is known as jargon. However, this is also the name given to the technical terminology which people use with their colleagues at work, and it should not be used when addressing a wider audience who will not understand this. It is also important, for this reason, to avoid buzzwords.
The aim of communication is to make yourself understood. In order to do so, you should always aim for clarity and brevity and never be verbose. Otherwise, you may end up writing gobbledegook.