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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cut the Bull**** - Straight Talking & Sustainability | Gareth Kane, Terra Infirma

This short article reminded me of a question posed to me when I was public information officer for the wastewater treatment utility serving the Seattle/King County area in Washington.

The question: What's a better word than sustainability, one that we can use without having to explain it, one that doesn't sound like technical jargon?


Sadly, I couldn't come up with an alternative--not because I think sustainability is a clearly usable word but because I couldn't think of a simpler synonym.

It's been awhile since I thought about that question. Perhaps this website about sustainability provides some clear insights  Of course, I'd like to hear from folks who have some clear, concise responses to the question above.

Anyway, Kane's article provides good reasons for using plain language when discussing sustainability:
  • It starts us off in an honest frame of mind;
  • It forces us to be absolutely clear about what we are trying to do;
  • It makes our commitments and efforts more credible - stripping away any whiff of greenwash;
  • It encourages transparency and openness;
  • It helps colleagues, suppliers and customers buy into the sustainability and understand what the organisation is really trying to do;
  • It allows all stakeholders to understand the commitments - and hold us to them.
Unfortunately, you'll need to check elsewhere on Kane's website if you need an explanation of sustainability itself. It's probably there; I just haven't looked for it yet.

For more information on writing in clear, concise language, check out Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. It describes seven steps for improving your writing skills:
  • 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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Kane's article is featured today, Jan. 31, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs--available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

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