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Monday, December 31, 2012

Wrong Again About Plain Language - Joseph Kimble, National Conference of State Legislatures

Kimble begins his article (emphasis added):
In a way, you have to admire someone who has spent almost two decades campaigning against plain language — unsuccessfully — and who still carries on. ...
What’s troubling is to see the recirculation of criticisms that are demonstrably false and that have been answered so many times. You have to wonder: How could anyone who knows the plain-language literature keep trotting out these inaccuracies and arguments? It’s hard to figure.
Kimble first tackles, in detail, Stark's charge that "Plain language generates errors." Kimble responds to a particular before-and-after comparison of plain language that Stark criticized.

Here's the article Kimble is writing about.

Kimble concludes:
All in all, then, the changes in meaning that Mr. Stark summons up are nonexistent, insignificant in practice, or deliberate. The revised version is not only shorter and clearer but also more accurate. More accurate, not less. And so it is that Mr. Stark’s case against plain language comes unmoored.
Kimble continues by responding briefly to Stark's other  mischaracterizations of plain language. Stark's charges include:
  • Advocates believe that “it is more important to be clear . . . than to be accurate.” 
  • As an example of a rule that he says “makes no sense,” Mr. Stark cites the rule “to address you” — that is, to address readers as you. 
  • “[Another] fallacy is the command that short sentences should be used.”
  • “The most damaging Plain Language rule is to write only words that are commonly used by laypeople in ordinary speaking and writing.” 
  • “I would be embarrassed to admit that my job is to write dumbed down statutes.”
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Kimble's article is featured today, Dec. 31, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs, available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

For more information on this topic, visit Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. It describes seven steps on how to improve your writing skills by using plain English techniques:
  • Focusing on your reader and purpose
  • Organizing your ideas
  • Writing clear, effective paragraphs
  • Writing clear, simple sentences
  • Using suitable words
  • Creating an enticing design
  • Testing for clarity.

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