29 October, 2007

Plain English?

Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), a first term member of the House is proposing new legislation that will require the Government to write future documents, forms and memos (etc) in Plain Language. He has been interested in the usage of simple wordings since the Iowa Supreme Court changed the wordings of Jury Instructions in 1983. Concerns over the deciphering of government "gobbledygook" are as old as the Constitution itself. Advocates claim that simplifying these necessary communications with the general public will decrease costs and streamline many processes. The Center for Plain Language lists 3 Principles of plain language:

Material is in plain language if the audience can:

  • Find what they need
  • Understand what they find
  • Use what they find to meet their needs
They aim to increase the all-pervading american dream of 100% efficiency. Fortunately, life and culture are not solely based on "'writing reasonably short sentances,' 'Preferring active voice,' 'Using clear, informative headings,' 'Omitting unnecessary words' and 'Having a readable design.'"

I see this as the ultimate admission of our nation's educational failure.

Problem: Our children cannot read and understand the technical wordings of Government forms.

Their Solution: Make the forms easier to understand.

My solution: Spend more money on education than _____________. I'm sure you get the picture.


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2 comments:

e. donovan said...

I think any effort to reduce bureaucracy is admirable, however. If people are able to know what the government wants from them, maybe they will recognize when their rights are being trampled upon.

Kathryn said...

here here! (to the "fixing the education" thing you said)
i mean, by all means cease and desist disguising the truth with many words. linguistics makes beautiful make-up. however, it can also be used [passive voice] to enlighten and provide further clarity through specificity. is it possible to say exactly what we mean to say without mutilating our language?
not if we don't teach our children to read and write...