Friday - - Leisure -

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”.

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