Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Plainly Lenny

I went to the 28th annual Plain English Awards in the city of London today. A few years ago, I put myself through Plain English Campaign's gruelling diploma course and came out of the other end with an evangelical desire to force people to communicate more clearly. I can't fanfare the Campaign's work loudly enough. After all, the purpose of language is to communicate; it has no other function. So why do people insist on making things hard to read? Is it the desire to look more intelligent? If so, it doesn't work. Nothing generates more grunts of 'wanker' than a complicated and badly worded memo or instruction.

The Awards rightly recognise those people who are championing the use of plain English in the workplace. But they also smack the botties of those who do the opposite. The Golden Bull Awards and the Foot in Mouth Award are given out for gobbledegook, balderdash and tripe. This year's worthy winners included this extract from a press release from UKTV about the launch of new channel ‘Dave’:

‘With a brief to establish Dave as the home of witty banter and as a refuge from the everyday, the award-winning Red Bee’s innovative and original creative juxtaposes traditional weekend retreat imagery with contemporary talent from the channel’s key content in a humorous and irreverent way to represent the channel’s key brand values.’

And these terms and conditions from the website of 'Fastway Couriers':

‘The Carrier shall not be liable for injury or damage to or destruction or loss of the Goods or any other property arising out of or incidental to or in connection with or occurring during the provision of the Services or for the mis-delivery or nondelivery of the Goods and whether or not caused or contributed to by the default (including negligence) of the Carrier or any agent, servant or officer of the Carrier or any other person entitled to the benefit of these conditions.’

And this fabulous sign seen at Gatwick Airport:

‘Passenger shoe repatriation area only.’

Wonderful. Ex-England football manager Steve McClaren won the Foot in Mouth for saying:

'He (Wayne Rooney) is inexperienced, but he's experienced in terms of what he's been through.'

Host Lenny Henry was witty, clever, rude, entertaining and an absolute gentleman, taking time to pose for photos with oddballs like me, sign autographs and laugh and joke with the audience. It was a great day out - as it is every year - and a valuable reminder of just how important it is to keep communicating clearly.

(Like a numpty I forgot to take my camera so I am hugely indebted to Dominique Alison who kindly took the photo and emailed it to me - See? There are some lovely people left in the world!)


Me said...

Sounds like you had a blast.

Spud said...

Can't understand a word of this...