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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

12 paths to plain language: reasons for choosing clarity — Rachel McAlpine, Contented Blog

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
A graphic with that statement by Leonardo da Vinci is the first thing you see when you go to the website with McAlpine's article.

And she uses it to make a point about the attitudes of governments, companies, not-for-profit agencies, and other organizations that pursue and promote plain language.

It's language that's "simple, unassuming, natural, unadorned by sequins or diamonds." It's neither sophisticated (in the highfalutin meaning of that word) nor scholarly.

It's the type of language that you -- I mean the person reading this blog at this moment on your computer, tablet or other device -- should be using in nearly all your writing. 

After I posted this article on my Facebook page, I friend replied:
Down with polysyllabic language! It doesn't make someone sound smart, typically just makes them sound arrogant.

In college I was in a group project with a guy that thought using complex language made him smart but there were four people in our group that were ESL, newly immigrated to the US. He ended up having to explain himself over and over again and never understood that if he simplified his language it would help everyone get the point faster.
McAlpine's article gives the reasons for liking (or disliking) communication in plain language. Here's a summary:
  1. Saving money. Where communication is garbled, time is wasted on non-compliance and unnecessary phone calls. ...
  2. Democracy, human rights. ... As “Everyone is equal before the law”, so everyone must be able to understand their rights.
  3. Web accessibility. Web content must be understandable: ... so that information can be accessed by everyone, regardless of disabilities.
  4. Usability. ... How can any information be usable if it is not understandable? ...
  5. Consumer rights. ...
  6. Help for new immigrants. ...
  7. Clear legislation. ...
  8. Clear legal language. ...
  9. Ease of translation. ... [The European Union] Fight the Fog initiative to make official documents simpler is based on the need for easy translation into other EU languages.
  10. Financial transparency. ... Gobbledygook played a big part in the recent credit crunch.
  11. Protecting a language. ...
  12. Civil Service Code of Conduct. ...
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For more information on this topic, visit Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. It describes A seven-step approach to writing clearly and concisely to meet the needs of your readers. This article is featured today (Aug. 8) in Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs -- available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription. 


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