Speak plainly and be heard In a previous column we saw how an American university produces an annual list of words deemed worthy of being discarded. Acting in a different way, but with the same intent (of achieving clarity in speech and writing) is the UK’s Plain English Campaign (PEC).
Since 1979 these crusading linguists “have been campaigning against gobbledygook, jargon and misleading public information...” This is no casual blog – its founder Chrissie Maher was awarded the OBE in 1994 for her services to plain communication.
The PEC has its own awards. The best known is the Crystal Mark, which is a certification granted to any organisation seeking a seal of approval for the clarity of a document. Other ‘awards’ include an Honesty Mark (which affirms that the contents of a document are true), and an Internet Crystal Mark.
Then there’s the Foot in Mouth award for gaffes committed by public figures. Some stellar examples: former England football manager Steve McClaren saying Wayne Rooney “is inexperienced, but he’s experienced in terms of what he’s been through”; Naomi Campbell for “I love England, especially the food. There’s nothing I like more than a lovely bowl of pasta”; and a lifetime achievement award for former US president GeorgeWBush for such pearls as “I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe – I believe what I believe is right”.
Their Golden Bull awards are given for the year’s ‘best’ examples of gobbledygook. See if you can make any sense (or indeed get to the end) of this winner – a set of instructions from Poole Lighting Limited: “The switched main live is generally a single black wire and this is connected to the brown wire(s) on the fitting. On a wall light this should be a single red wire. The neutral is generally two black wires and these are connected to the blue wire(s). On a wall light this should be a single black wire. The mains earth wire(s) must be connected to all green/ yellow wire(s) or earth terminal on the fitting. When completed ensure that there are no bare or loose strands of wire exposed, and cover all exposed areas of terminal blocks with insulation tape”.