Plain again

Friday is plain English day. With depressing predictability, the usual Government departments and utilities will be lined up and ridiculed for using jargon and bureaucratic obfuscation.

Fair enough. Lots of it is ridiculous and laughable (and our own Words at Work survey found most of us get wound up by the likes of ‘touch base’ and ‘I’ll socialise that’). But is plain English really the answer? The fact that they’ve been plugging away at it for over 30 years – in which time the stuff they moan about has only proliferated – suggests they’re barking up the wrong tree.

Yes, plain English is better than confusing English; we’d sign up to that (and do, with our clients). But plain English can be – and often is – deathly dull. It gets its point across, but does it persuade you? Does it provoke you? Does it touch you? Does it make you want to take off your shoes and dance down the street in the cool, fresh winter rain? Type ‘plain boring’ into Google and those words appear together on the internet 30 million times.

Part of the problem is that the plain English brigade are natural critics. As well as picking holes, wouldn’t it be great to know who’s doing a good job? Someone should pick out public figures, companies, brands whose language is clever, funny, moving, surprising. Anything but plain, in fact. Cue Nick.

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