Because Clear Documents Make You Clearly Better to do Business With.

Anyone who knows AMC's Director Mark Carlton will be aware that he believes in plain speaking. In business that is not a bad thing.

Mark recently visited the website of The Word Centre. He was impressed by the wealth of information available to assist businesses to improve the clarity of emails, letters, reports, leaflets etc. and realised that, in turn, this can save time and money.

Mark says: "I am always looking at ways in which I can improve AMC's communication with its present or potential clients and If that improves our efficiency all the better."

While visiting the site Mark subscribed to the email newsletter and, after finding it both informative and amusing, he has decided to share it. It is reproduced below in its enirety. "I just want to spread the word", added Mark.

 

Plain English Bulletin -- Volume 8, Issue 4, April 2007

In this issue:

1. News
2. Humour
3. Language
4. Did You Know?
5. Self Development
6. Quotes of the Month

 

1. News

Civil servants go back to school!

Many of us have heard about the concerns the UK government has over the standards of reading and writing among schoolchildren.

Now there are concerns about the civil servants at the Department for
Education and Skills (DfES). This is, of course, the department that implements government policies on education and skills training. Apparently, staff at the DfES are not too hot when it comes to punctuation and using plain English, and their letters and emails reflect this. Hence the need for action to put things right.

Everyone in the DfES has been sent a series of guides to remind them how
to use apostrophes and about commonly confused words such as `two´, `to´ and
`too´. Every week they receive a different lesson as part of an in-house campaign called `Getting the Basics Right´.

As well as the weekly lessons, staff also receive an essential reading list.

This list includes books like Lynne Truss's bestseller, `Eats, Shoots & Leaves´, which is all about punctuation.

Many organisations close their eyes to shortcomings in their staff´s writing. It takes courage to accept that standards are low and then do something about it. DfES has had to put up with some predictably sarcastic newspaper coverage as a result of their campaign.

We wish them well with it.


Tell them in plain English

Last month Edmund Hall, a UK Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) prosecutor, called for Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) to be written in plain English.

He said the way the orders are being worded is causing confusion and they should be easier for offenders to understand.

An ASBO is a court order made to prevent an individual from behaving in a way that is felt to be anti-social. The aim of an ASBO is to protect the public from behaviour which can make their lives a misery.

Speaking at a conference on the government´s `respect´programme, Mr Hall said: `It's not big and it's not clever to use complicated legal language. Often we're dealing with 14-, 15-, 16-year-old kids who haven't had a great education, never mind adults who might be in the same boat. It's not actually that difficult to express your concepts clearly and in plain English.´

To make his point Mr Hall gave the example of a 14-year-old boy´s ASBO which said he was `prohibited from loitering in the curtilage´ of a school. The boy did not understand the phrase.

Although an ASBO is a civil order, rather than a criminal penalty, breaking the order is a serious matter. One of the penalties for breaking an ASBO is to be sent to prison for up to five years.

Because of this, it is vital that the wording of an ASBO is clear and unambiguous. This way the people who receive them have a clear understanding of what it is they mustn´t do.

We couldn´t agree more with what Mr Hall is saying. It is possible to write the most complex information, including legal documents, in plain English.

As we see it, in the case of ASBOs, making them clearer and easier to understand will benefit everyone.


2. Humour

Found on the internet -- some more amusing computer helpline problems:

Customer: I keep getting inappropriate pop-ups on my computer and don´t want my wife to think that it's me.
Tech Support: I will remove them for you.
Customer: How do I get them back when she is not in?

Tech Support: What is your user name?
Customer: John Smith.
Tech Support: (searching for user name `johnsmith´ to no avail). That's your
user name, your login? The one your account uses?
Customer: Yep.
Tech Support: So, John Smith is the user name for your account?
Customer: Yep.
Tech Support: (searches for customer account by last name, finds a million
Smiths, finally finds account). We have your user name listed as `wolf231´.
Customer: Yep.
Tech Support: Not John Smith.
Customer: Yep.
Tech Support: ... (speechless!)

Customer: How do I change channel on my monitor?
Tech Support: Your monitor won't have channels like a TV.
Customer: But I was watching the internet channel the other day and now I just get the word processing channel.

Tech Support: What error message are you getting?
Customer: I'm not getting an error, it just won't connect.
Tech Support: Nothing comes up when you try to connect?
Customer: Nope, nothing happens at all. It doesn't say anything.
Tech Support: And nothing appears on the screen whatsoever?
Customer: Nope.
Tech Support: Well. What happens to lead you to believe that it isn't working?
Customer: It says Error 691, User Name or Password ...

Tech Support: Can you click on 'My Computer'?
Customer: I don't have your computer, just mine.

Customer: My 14-year-old son has put a password on my computer and I can't get in.
Tech Support: Has he forgotten it?
Customer: No, he just won't tell me it because I've grounded him.

Customer: My iPod will only play one song.
Tech Support: Which other tracks have you downloaded from iTunes?
Customer: Do I need to download tracks?

Tech Support: OK Bob, let's press the control and escape keys at the same time. That brings up a task list in the middle of the screen. Now type the letter 'P'
to bring up the Program Manager.
Customer: I don't have a 'P'.
Tech Support: On your keyboard, Bob.
Customer: What do you mean?
Tech Support: 'P' on your keyboard, Bob.
Customer: I'm not going to do that!

Also from the internet, some humorous anagrams:

Dormitory = dirty room
Presbyterian = best in prayer
Astronomer = moon starer
Desperation = a rope ends it
The eyes = they see
George Bush = he bugs Gore
The morse code = here come dots
Slot machines = cash lost in me
Animosity = is no amity
Election results = lies - let's recount
Snooze alarms = alas! No more Z's
A decimal point = I'm a dot in place
Eleven plus two = twelve plus one
Mother-in-law = woman Hitler


3. Language

Whose letter is it?

For one family in Derbyshire, England, the postman´s arrival each morning can be a real headache. All eleven people in the family have the same initials and surname.

When mum and dad met and married they both had the initials TJ, and they have since given all their nine children names that also give them the initials TJ.

We bet they´ll have years of fun sorting out the confusion when various government departments get them mixed up with each other.

First US texting champion is a teenager

Earlier this month, Morgan Pozgar, a thirteen-year-old from Claysburg, Pennsylvania, became the first US texting champion. Her prize? A massive 25,000 dollars!

Around 300 people took part in the competition and were tested for both the speed and accuracy of their texting. They were shown phrases on overhead plasma screens and asked to type them on their handsets exactly as they appeared without typos or abbreviations.

Morgan´s winning text was: `Supercalifragilisticexpialidocios! Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious. If you say it loud enough you'll always sound precocious.´

Delighted to have won, Morgan said she sends over 4,000 text messages every month.

No wonder she´s good at it!


4. Did you know?

Being afraid of Friday 13th is called `paraskavedekatriaphobia´.

The Local Education Authorities in Cologne, Germany, have had to rethink their plans for contacting parents whose children are not at school when they should be. The plan was for teachers to send a text message when a pupil was playing truant. Unfortunately, the authorities discovered that most teachers didn´t know how to text and would need lessons in how to do it.

The fashion website www.missbutterfly.co.uk recently carried out a survey to find out which cities in the UK have the most fashionably dressed people. The survey found the top five cities to be: London, Cardiff, Newcastle, Sheffield and Belfast. At the topof the least fashionable cities was Plymouth, followed by Aberdeen, Leeds, Leicester and Glasgow. Although we're based in Sheffield, we´ve never thought of ourselves as being particularly trendy before!


5. Self development

New 'Writing plain English' course date

We have organised another of our public one-day 'Writing plain English' courses. The course will be in London on 29 June 2007.

To find out more, please go to our website at
http://www.wordcentre.co.uk/page9.htm


Try our on-line course one lesson at a time

You can now try our on-line course one lesson at a time. This is a great idea if you want a refresher on just one or two topics, or if you don't think you'll have thetime to work through the whole course in 30 days. You get 30 days' access to each lesson you subscribe to.

You will also get a free subscription to the introductory lesson 'What do we mean by 'plain English'?' when you subscribe to any other lesson.

Here are the lessons you can download:

What do we mean by 'plain English'? An introduction to plain English, which includes the main plain English techniques.

Using everyday words. Cut out the jargon and say what you mean.

Keeping your sentences short and effective. Learn how to divide your writing into
manageable chunks to help your reader digest the message. Includes using 'bullet lists'.

Making your writing 'human'. Make your writing personal to grab the interest of your reader and create a good impression of your organisation.

Writing 'actively' (using active verbs). Make your writing concise and direct
by learning this simple technique.

Punctuation and grammar. Master the essentials of these two topics and
learn how to avoid some common pitfalls.

Putting it all together. Applying plain English to letters and reports, and with
some longer exercises to help you practise your new-found skills.

How does it work?

When you enrol we will send you a user name and password. Then you can
access our server and work on the lessons of your choice as many times as you want over the next 30 days. Or you can just enrol for one lesson, and then come back for more when you're ready.

For more information please go to:
www.wordcentre.co.uk/lessonbylesson.htm


6. Quotes of the month

`Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy?
I don't know and I don't care.´
William Safire

`Good writing is like a windowpane.´
George Orwell

`Brevity is the best recommendation of speech, whether in a senator or an orator`.
Marcus Tullius Cicero

`Silence is the most perfect expression of scorn.´
George Bernard Shaw


This is a free monthly news bulletin about plain language and loosely related topics.

To subscribe to the newsletter visit:
http://www.wordcentre.co.uk/page3.htm

Please send your comments and suggestions.

Would you like to contribute?

We are always happy to get articles about plain English or other language-related topics.

Please contact us at df@wordcentre.co.uk .

http://www.wordcentre.co.uk

Phone: (44) 114 257 1400
Fax: (44) 114 257 1528

"Because clear documents make you clearly better to do business with"