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WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH Baden EUNSON COMMUNICATION SKILLS WRITING IN , PLAIN ENGLIS JOHN WILEY & SONS BRISBANE * NEW YORK * CHICHESTER * TORONTO SINGAPORE First published 1996 by JACARANDA WILEY LTD. 33 Park Road, Milton, Qld 4064 Offices also in Sydney and Metbourne ‘Typeset in 10.5/13 pt Garamond © Baden Eunson 1996 National Library of Australia Cataloguing:in Publication data Bunson, Baden, ‘Writing in piain English, ‘Bibliography. Includes indes. ISN 0 471 33565 7. 1. Business writing. 2, Commercial correspondence, 3. English language ~ Business English. Tile. (Geries: Communication skill series), 808, 06665, Al rights reserved. No part of this publication ‘may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, (or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, fF otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. Edited by Bookmark Co, Pry Lid Cover illstration and cartoons by Mike Spoor Printed in Hong Kong w98T6S4321 ‘Apart rom ay ai deling for he purposes research opiate study. or cfs or review as perited under he relevant copyright, less and patel as, his publication may onl be rerodued, stored rans, n any fxm ory any means, th the roe permission nwrng fhe pubiher. eBooks Corporation = CONTENTS Preface v 1. What is Plain English? 1 Plain English: practical workplace payofis 5 Plain English: some definitions 6 Plain English: not just words 7 Writing in plain English: what's the plan? 7 2. Planning 8 Document design: a process model 8 ‘The document itself 12 3, Structure and Clarity 13 Structures: creating shape for your ideas 13 4, Structure and Clarity Sentences and paragraphs 25 Readers, skimmers and cunners 23 Sentences 23 Paragraphs 25 5. Layout: Headings, Numbering, ‘Typefaces and Other Aids 29 Headings 29 Numbering 30 Bullet points 30 ‘Types and fonts 30 Space 37 Colour 37 6. Graphic Communication and Clarity 38 Visuals: pro 38. Visuals:con 40 Visuals: what they are, and how touse them 40 Some guidelines for presenting visuals 52 7. The Irresponsible Writer: Use of Passive Voice and Disjuncts 55 Disjunets, or sentence modifiers 57 points:You don't say? ‘What people say about plain English 60 8. The Remote Writer: Nominalisations, Abstractions, Nominalisations 62 ‘Verbings’ 65 Abstractions 65 Circumlocution 76 Reification 82 9. The Ambiguous Writ Confusing and Ambiguous Expressions 85 Pronoun reference 85 Misplaced modifiers 86 Noun stacks 88 Ambiguous groups of words 89 Ambiguous conjunctions 89 Semantic ambiguity 90 10. The Sloppy Writer: Clichés and Tautologies 92 Clichés 92 rautology 102 Talking points:You don’t say? ‘More of what people say about plain English 105 11. The Deceptive Writer: Euphemisms, Gobbledegook, Doublespeak and Jargon 111 Euphemisms 111 Jargon 112 Doublespeak 112 ‘Talking points “sithumphreyspeak’ — jargon, doublespeak and gobbledegook from a master 120 12, Tone: Personal, Positive and Reader-centred 122 ‘The personal approach 123 the positive approach 123 ‘The readercentred approach 125 ‘Tone in plain English documents 126 13. Gender 128 14, Using Punctuation to Aid Clarity 130 End punctuation 130 The comma 133, ‘The semicolon 139 ‘The colon 140 ‘The apostrophe 140 Capital letters 144 Parentheses and brackets 144 ‘The dash 146 ‘The hyphen 147 Quotation marks 148. 15. Readability: Can Your Readers Read What You Write? 150 ‘The Fog Index 150 ‘The Flesch Scale 151 Readability scores: how reliable are they? 152 Easy words and hard words 153 Readability formulas: means to ends 155 Cutting through the ‘fog’ and renouncing the ‘flesch’ 155 46. Useability Testing: Does che Document Work? 157 Creating documents: a writing/ ing sequence 157 Appendix A: $ ideas 162 sme basic grammatical Appendix B: Samples of documents 166 Endnotes 178 Reference list 183 Index 193 PREFACE Plain English has become an important and controversial topic in the past few years. Although the idea means different things to different people, most ‘would agree that plain English documents are those which are free of jargon and ambiguity. That is, plain English is clear and simple English, a style that allows communication with a large, rather than a restricted, audience. ‘This does not mean, however, that the plain English approach always involves choosing the shortest, simplest word or sentence: it is about choosing what is appropriate for the reader or readers, the purpose, and the context. In this book we will examine the distortions in meaning that occur when writers employ jargon and other faulty approaches, such as unnecessary ‘wordiness, use of words remote from everyday experience, and ambiguous oF confusing expressions. To produce documents that are clearly understandable, however, we also need to consider other factors, such as structure, tone, punctuation, layout, graphic communication, gender and readability, not to mention the planning and testing of documents. All of these factors are considered in Writing in Plain English. These factors are relevant to an extremely broad range of documents — from legal contracts to job instructions, from insurance poli ies to letters and memos, and from policy statements to forms, It is important to note that the rules for clear communication discussed here are as relevant to spoken expression as they are to written expression. Throughout the book, you will find various activities to help you build your skills, More information about the specific points in the text is con- tained in numbered endnotes at the back of the book. If you wish to read further stil in this area, a large and up-to-date reference list is provided. BADEN EUNSON in English, to most people, means English that is simple and clear. It ‘means English that is mercifully free fom the jargon and gobbledegook" that clogs up so much writing today. ‘The fight for plain English has been going on for some time, however. George Orwell noted in 1946 that ‘official’ language had a way of mangling meaning beyond recognition. To demonstrate, he took a famous passage from the Bible, and ‘translated’ it into the administrative jargon of the day 1 returned, and saw under the sun, that the nice is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activit no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a exhibits considerable element of the Ecclesiastes | unpredictable must inevitably be taken into account. (Source: Adapted from Orwell 1946 [1967] Orwell's parody is 60 years old, and yet could easily fit into many docu ‘ments written today in public and private sector organisations ‘The fight for plain English was continued in the 1950s with the publication of ground-breaking books such as Sir Ernest Gower's The Complete Plain Words, and The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jnr and E. B.White Plain English as a social movement began to pick up speed in the late 1960s, partly in reaction to the jargon that emerged from the Vietnam War. In 1971, the American Council of Teachers of English formed a committee on ‘public doublespeak’, and later began to issue a journal, the Quarterly Journal of Doublespeak (sce p.116). Governments in the United. Stat Kingdom and Australia began t0 is United ue orders that legislation was to be drafted in ‘clear’ and ‘simple’ English.’ In 1979, a group known as Plain English Cam- paign was set up in Britain, dedicated to the idea that many public and private documents could be much clearer than they were. An example of one of the ‘campaign's ‘translations’ into plain English is shown on the next page. WHATISPLAN ENGLISH? 4 ‘Your enquiry about the use of the entrance area at the library for the purpose of displaying. posters and leaflets about Welfare and Supplementary Benetit rights, gives rise to the question of the provenance and ‘Thank you for your letter asking. permission to put up posters in the entrance area of the library. Before we can give you an answer we will need to see a copy of the posters to make sure they won't offend anyone. authoritativeness of the material to be displayed, Posters and leaflets issued by the Central Office of Information, the Department of Health and Social Security and other authoritative bodies are usually displayed in libraries, but items of a disputatious or polemic kind, whilst not necessarily excluded, are considered individually, (Source: Utter Drivel, Plan English Campaign. Reproduced with permission.[1994}) 2 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH Such ‘translations’ have become a hallmark of the plain English movement, Some other examples of this approach are given over the next few pages Figure 1.1. shows the ‘before’ and ‘after’ versions of an agreement used in the New South Wales Technical and Further Education system, The agreement is signed by clients when they have their hair done by students of the hair. dressing course. (Note that the original version is written in legalistic lan- guage, and consists of only three sentences.) igure 1.2 shows the ‘before’ and ‘after’ ve employees in an Australian clothing factory. With all of these examples, most people would agree that the ‘after’ versions, or ‘translations’, are clearer than the ‘before’, or original versions yns of safety rules issued 10 HAIRDRESSING CLASS AGREEMENT ‘In consideration ofthe Managing Director agreeing at my request to arrange for the following work namely baie- dressing beauty culture and/or allied. work to be per= formed on my person by students andlor trainees of TTAFECOM or some or one of them I the undersigned acknowledge that Tam aware that the said students and/or trainees are not qualified 10 perform such work AND I AGREE that any such work so performed by such stu- ‘dents and/or trainees or some of one of them including bleaching tinting and colouring permanent waving by any process whether or not entailing the application of sachets andlor heaters to my hair shall be performed entirely at ‘my own risk AND I FURTHER AGREE that Her Majesty the Queen Her Heits and Successors the Minister the Government of the State of New South Wales and the Director-General and their servants and agents or any of thom shall not be held liable for any ijury to person or damage 10 property whatsoever which T or any other person may suffer either () inthe course of or asa result (ofthe performance ofthe aforesaid work andor (i in the ‘course of or asa result of entering leaving passing thrnigh traversing or using in any way whatsoever any premises or buildings or grounds or any part of or parts thereof under the care control and management of Her Majesty the Queen Her Heirs and Successors or the Government of the said State or the Minister or the Managing Director and each of them and their servants and agents and each fof them whether such injury or damage be attributable to lack of skill o care defective equipment or premises the nature or quality of the materials used or any other cause whatsoever AND I FURTHER AGREE to release and indemnify Her Majesty Her Heirs and Successors the Government of the State of New South Wales the Minister the Managing Director and their servants and agents and tach of them the said students and trainees and each of them and ther instructors and each of them and to hold them harmless and free from all claims demands action suits cause or causes of action of suit sum or sums of ‘money compensation damage costs charges and expenses \hiet Tor any other person or persons at any time here- fatter may have or but for this writing might have against Her Majesty the Queen Her Heirs and Successors the said Government of the State of New South Wales the Minister the Managing Director or their ageats or servants oe any ‘of them or the said student or trainees or any of them or their instructors or any of them for or on account of the matters before specified or for or on account of any other ‘matter or thing eaused by or arising out of same, For the purposes of this Agreement unless the context otherwise requires “Minster’ means thatthe Minister for Education of the State of New South Wales and includes his successors in office. “Managing Director’ means the ‘Managing Director of TAFECOM Tor the State of New ‘South Wales or the person aeting as such forthe time being, HAIRDRESSING AND BEAUTY THERAPY AGREEMENT 1 agree to have the following work done by the students of Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy at College of TAFE. agree and understand that: Lay have to stay in the class forthe whole lesson, the students are training and may not yet be qualified todo the work the students may have to use cutting tools, heated equipment, bleaches, tins, colours and other chemicals fon my hai, nails or skin, any work is done at my own risk = Lust accept the teacher's advice on the suitability of the work I want done * 1 cannot claim any costs for injury or damage to myself or my property either while the work is being done or after it has been completed. This injury or damage could be due to Tack of skill, defective equip ment, the quality of materials or some other cause. + TAFE and its employees and students are not liable for any injuty o¢ damage T might suffer white Tam at the College or on any part of the college buildings or rounds, 1 have read this indemnity agreement and 1 understand what it means, Figure 1.1: NSW TAFE Hairdressing Agreement: original version, and 1992 plain English version (@ NSW TAFE. Reproduced with permission) WHATISPLAN ENGLISH? 9 4 WRITING IV PLAIN ENGLISH NO EMPLOYEE SHALL: 1. Operate a michine unless properly 3, Fail to notify super Attempt to repair or has a tag uneate si OF THIS WORKPLACE 1. Make sure your machine is properly guarded. 2. Keep work area clean and tidy. 3. Report any injury. 4, Wear safety equipment. 5. Walk in the factory. 6. Clean machines when they are not in use. Figure 1.2: Health and safety rules (Source: Australian Textiles, Clothing and Footwear Industry Training Board [1994], Reproduced with permission ofthe Australian Light Manufacturing Industry Training Advisory Boar, 132-138 Leicester ‘treat, Caron, Vic. Australia 205) PLAIN ENGLISH: PRACTICAL WORKPLACE PAYOFFS Plain English is seen by some as being critical to the market success or failure of onganisations. Figure 1.3 shows material from a brochure jointly developed by a law firm and a management consultancy. The material demonstrates to these companies’ clients that plain English has a cash pay-off value in the mar ketplace, This is b nology, and can lead cause plain English can link people, processes and tech- increased competitiveness, effectiveness and efficiency. (See also pp. 105-7.) ‘The levers that create change and Business improvements improvement Increased competitiveness — image is Plain enhanced and sales are improved English + Better communication creates a positive image of an efficient, responsive and Technolog), Processes Plain English ‘communication enables your customers to understand your products, and your staff to understand your business processes, People are given new opportunities to be productive and innovative, and to support 4 continuous improvement culture. Processes ‘can be re-engineered to support the new way of communicating. As result, non- value adding processes, such as dispute resolution, are reduced or abandoned, Technology ‘can streamline processes. Figure 1.3: Plain English as a business improvement tool friendly business + Customers are not ‘put off by intimidating documents + Legal documents become selling documents. Increased effectiveness — the job is done better + Customers more clearly understand what they can and cannot do + Administrative staff do their work more accurately + Courts are less likely to decide that your documents are invalid + You can understand the document — you can make sure it is accurate, Increased efficiency — the job is done more cheaply + Documents match business processes + Complaints, queries and mistakes caused by misunderstandings are reduced + Staff training is easier ‘+ Management and staff spend less time monitoring compliance + There are fewer disputes and there is less litigation, (Source: Philips Fou mst & Young [1995], Reproduced with permission of Philips Fox and Emst & Young.) WHATISPLAN ENGLISH? 5 PLAIN ENGLISH: SOME DEFINITIONS As plain English develops, as a communication discipline and as a social move- ‘ment, definitions of just what plain English is are rapidly emerging: Plain English is clear, straightforward expression, using only as many words as are necessary. ICs language that avoids obscurity, inflated vocabulary and convoluted sen- tence construction. It is not baby talk, nor is ita simplified version of the English lan- ‘guage, Writers of plain English let their audience concentrate on the message instead Of being distracted by complicated language, They make sure that their audience understands the message casily. This means that writers of plain English must vary the way they write their documents according to the composition of their audience. For instance, document can contain a number of technical words and still be plain, Robert Eagleson* But what is really meant by plain English? Is it anything more than a slogan used by campaigners to publicise themselves and their favourite cause, and by businesses selling editing and document design services? Undoubtedly, plain English is a woolly term. AS no formula can genuinely measure the plainness of a document, I would rather describe plain English than deine it, In my view, plain English refers to: “The weiting and setting out of essential information in a way that gives a cooper. ative, motivated person a good chance of understanding a document at first reading, and in the same sense that the writer meant it to be understood. ‘This means pitching the language at a level of sophistication that suits the readers and using appropriate structure and layout to help them navigate through the document. It docs not mean always using simple words at the expense of the most accurate words or writing whole documents in kindergarten language — even if,as some adult illiteracy surveys claim, some seven million adults in the UK and about 70 million adults in the US cannot read and write competently Plain English is not an absolute: what is plain to an audience of scientists or phil- osophers may be obscure to everyone else. And because of variations in usage across the English-speaking world, what is plain in Manchester may be obscure in Madris or Maine. Similarly, what i plain today may be obscure in a hundred years from now because patterns of usage, readers’ prior knowledge, and readers’ expec- tations will all alter over time, Martin Cutts! 6 WRITING IN PLAN ENGLISH PLAIN ENGLISH: NOT JUST WORDS ‘The plain English concept has attracted its share of critics. Writers such as Penman have argued that if plain English simply means using shorter words and sentences in documents, then it isn’t much good to anyone, and certainly doesn’t guarantee that all people will understand such simplified prose, Other factors need to be taken into account, she suggests, such as the visual layout of documents and the individual learning styles of readers. Documents also need to be tested while still in draft form, to ensure that users of such documents really understand them. This in turn means that “plain English’ may be too narrow a term, and that a broader (but less catchy) term — such as ‘information design’ — may be needed.* WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH: WHAT’S THE PLAN? All of these issues will be covered in this book. We will consider various faulty styles of writing, understood in terms of use — and misuse — of various concepts of grammar and usage: + the irresponsible writer (passive voice and disjuncts) + the remote writer (abstractions, circumlocutions, nominalisations and ification) + the ambiguous writer (confusing or ambiguous expressions) + the sloppy writer (clichés and tautologies) + the deceptive writer (euphemisms, doublespeak and jargon). Before we look at such specifics of language, however, we will look at the bigger picture of planning documents. We will then look at the language matters, together with aspects such as structure, tone, readability, gender, punctuation, graphic communication, layout and uscability testing. All of these factors can critically affect the look and effectiveness of documents. If you feel you need to brush up on basic concepts of grammar and usage, appendix A should be of some use.° For a more detailed treatment of tra- ditional grammar, see Writing Skills, another book in the Communication s ls series.” Appendix B contains more examples of ‘before’ and ‘after’ versions of various documents subjected to the plain English ‘treatment’ WHATS PLAN ENGLISH? 7 Presume tor tne moment that you have been asked to write a document Such a document might be: + operating instructions for machinery + a brochure describing a new insurance policy + the insurance policy itself + a form + aletter + amemo report + a regulation, Most of Writing in Plain English is concerned with techniques that will help you to write such a document. But before you put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, you need to ask yourself some basic questions, only some of which have to do with writing, DOCUMENT DESIGN: A PROCESS MODEL ‘The message and the medium 8 WRITING IN PLAN ENGLISH Creating a document should be seen as part of a process. Figure 2.1 shows a ‘model of such a process developed by Redish, Felker and Rose.* Looking at this model, we see that writing is only a part of the whole pro- cess (Phase II: Design steps), and even then, only a part of that part. There is a phase after writing, and a phase before writing, ‘The first phase is concerned with determining just what message it is you want to convey. Bound up with this is the question of your purpose: do you really need a document? This is not quite as silly as it Sounds. There are other from written communication, You might be channels of communication ay better off + making a telephone + having an informal conversation + holding a meeting lling a media conference + making a'TV or radio commercial If this is the case, then you would be better off using those channels. Keep in mind, of course, that virtually all of the advice given in this book about plain English is relevant in spoken communications as well as in written communication, | re-design stops |< pesign stops Post-design stops Determine Determine ‘content task (What siout message form oyou + road and convey?) + read and remember ¥ Draft document Define + sect appro- ° Ea) camo icon (omy | 9 penne (Who wit + organise for document | ¢ (wy do Ly! use your [>| Review |! active Loy ie document? ican revieo its purpose | eon What are aan and forts E ment?) i suse repos ait suddenoet er tohelpclanty N reeds?) vyourmessage T Determine contextual ‘constraints posedby the system how the document ‘aused how the ‘document isa buted Figure 2.1: The process model of document design (Source: Redish J, Felker, D-and Rose, A. (1961), Evaluating the effects of document design prinipies’, Information Design Journal, vel. 2,p. 236. Reproduced wih permission} The audience if you decide that your message really is best conveyed by a document, then. you need t0 consider just what kind of document will be appropriate, Pehaps the kind of document you originally had in mind will not be appropriate Appropriateness will be determined by knowing just who is your audience Some questions about your audience, and appropriate responses, are given in table 2.1 PLANNING © Table 2.1: Analysing your audience Factor Question Response Personal style | Is the audience Concentrate on detail, but be ready to show how details make composed of people who | up the big picture. prefer details to the big picture? Is your audience Give the big picture, but be ready to show how the big picture is composed of people who | made up of details. prefer the big picture to the detailed approach? Technical Is your audience Don't waste time on background explanations, as the audience background | composed of people who | might fee! insulted, Jump straight in atthe technical level, but be are familiar with and fon guard against in-group complacency (which occurs when a ‘comfortable with the ‘group gets cut off from reality because its world of jargon and area's key ideas, assumptions is too comfortable and non-threatening) assumptions and jargon?” Is your audience Define terms, assumptions and key ideas. Make it easy for composed of people who | them with glossaries, simplified visual models, analogies, are not familiar with and | demonstrations and historical overviews. Don't patronise ‘comfortable with the people; put them at their ease so that they feel confident area's key ideas, {enough to ask ‘stupid’ questions. Remember that all people — assumptions and jargon? | even you — are ignorant in diferent areas, and that by having to prepare an ultr-basic view of the area may in fact give you insights which you would otherwise have missed (because you have been too close to the action to see it in perspective). Status Does the audience value | Keep it formal formality? Does the audience value | Keep it informal informality? Is itremotely possible | The answer to this is always yes — or you should at least that people outside the | believe that i's yes — and act accordingly. It pays to be official audience will read_| paranoid. Beware of sweeping generalisations, unsupported the document? assertions, libellous statements and cheap jokes at the expense of others not present. Let your document help, not haunt, your career. Initial attitude | Positive ‘Good. Don't lose it by being complacent. Work on it (by paying attention to the above-listed factors, questions and responses) to make it sill more positive. Neutral ‘Good. Work on it (by paying attention to the above-listed factors, questions and responses) to make it positive, Hostile Not s0 good, but not necessarily disastrous. Pay attention to the above-listed factors, questions and responses. ‘Nro the audience's vested interests threatened by what you are talking about? Are you in competition with them for the same scarce resources? Can you show them a mutually beneficial outcome? (See p. 12, ‘Contextual restraints’) * Nota the discussion on jargon, . 112. 10 WRITING INPLAN ENGLISH Sometimes it is possible to write differentially — to write in a specific way for a specific audience. Unfortunately, sometimes you need to write for mul- tiple audiences, which makes it much harder to write differentially. If you have identified multiple audiences by using table 2.1, the question might be: which audience do I write for? The answer to that question is usually — all of the above, Consequently, your responses should be all of the above, as well. Remember, the difficult takes a little while, and the impossible takes a little longer. ‘There are, however, some even more basic considerations concerning your: audience, ot audiences, For example, how well can they read, and indeed, can what can they they read at all? Keep in mind that, merely because a country is. English- understand? speaking s no guarantee that all of ts citizens will have a high level of feclity in English, Consider the folowing points + The US army found, in 1982, that almost 40 per cent ofits junior enlisted personnel had reading abilities below the sixth grade level — that is, were iterate by United Nations standards + Some 7 milion adults in the UK cannot read and write competently. + A survey in 1989 found that 46 per cent of Australians could not understand the directions on a medicine bottle, + One in two Australians have difficulty coping with language more complex than that found in tabloid newspapers — that i, have a reading age of about year 10.2 Audience: Consider also that Englishspeaking countries may also contain people from other, non-English-speaking cultures. Also consider that, as communication becomes more global, and as the language of global communi cation tends to be English, some of the documents that you write may well be seen by people whose first language is not English Does this mean, then, that the extraordinary var iety and power of the English language has to be replaced with a lowestcommon- denominator English? The short and brutal answer to this is, in certain cir- cumstances, with certain audiences, yes. Subtlety and flexibility should not be abandoned, however. Writers of English have a responsibility to lead, as ‘well as to follow. Readers with even ited abilities often tire of docu- ‘ments written entirely in simple sentences (pp.26-8). They crave something more in sentence struc- ture, and so they will probably crave more in vocabulary and in ideas. Audiences like to be talked fo, not talked down to. Plain English should not be a code phrase for what has been called the “dumbing down’ of the language (see pp. 60-1). PLANNING 11 Contextual constraints Once you have a clear idea of who your audience is — or who your audiences are — you need to consider just what it is you want them to do. Are you giving them information only, with no response expected on their part? Do you want them to absorb information, and then act upon it? In other words, are they reading to do, to learn, to be entertained, or a mixture of these three?" The response you expect from your reader will affect the way you write and what you write about. All organisations are systems, and all systems have rules, both official and unofficial. The ways in which people within organisations communicate with the customers o clients outside the organisation, and with colleagues inside the organisation, will critically affect the success or otherwise of your docu- ment, A message sent is not necessarily a message received. How will the document be used? How will it be distributed? Are there any stakeholders or vested interests within the organisation who would prefer to see the docu- ‘ment serve their own interests rather than the interests of the customers or clients? In other words, will there be political interference in what appears to be the simple technical matter of document creation?" Given that the answer to this is almost always yes, how will you handle such interference? THE DOCUMENT ITSELF Review, revision, editing and evaluation. 12 WRITING INPLAN ENGLISH Having survived the predesign phase, you can now move into the design phase, It is useful to stress the broader concept of design rather than just the narrower concept of writing. There’s nothing narrow about the writing techniques we will be considering, but it’s useful to bear in mind that writing is only part of document creation. The total look of a document is vital 10 its success (or failure). The use of layout and graphics is as vital as the use of words. Underpinning both text and non-text material is the basic plan or structure of the document: if that is not clear, then the message, no matter how attractively presented or eloquently expressed, will not be clear, ‘The first draft of a document is rarely the last. You have to be ready to shape your message, re-shape it, and then reshape it again. You need to be your ‘own best critic of your work, looking at it unsentimentally and impartially Reviewing, revising and editing a document often takes as long as writing the first draft, so make sure you budget your time accordingly: ‘The document needs to be evaluated by actual or potential members of your audience, Documents need to be tested by two groups: 1, people who have been chosen precisely because of their expertise 2. people who have been chosen precisely because of their lack of expertise In fact, with certain types of documents, such as manuals, policies and regu- lations, the evaluation never stops: even when a final draft has been released, there will always be another version down the track, and there's always room, for improvement (sce chapter 16, Uscability testing). Le’s now consider how to plan a document, and then go on to the practical techniques of writing, nating or modifying certain wonts tnd group of wont and aso by ng ox 80 much to create clarity, however. The simplest words, punctuation, layout and graphic communication are not of much use unless your documents have . a clear and logical structure, and unless the sentences within those documents also have a clear and logical structure. STRUCTURES: CREATING SHAPE FOR YOUR IDEAS When you write, where do you start? What do you say? There is a number of ideas that you can use to structure your thoughts in a document. Not incidentally, these techniques can not only help you to excate steucture, but to simply excate — in other words, to break any writer's block you might have when it comes to putting pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard, Let’s now consider the direct versus indirect technique, the 5W-HT technique, the AIDA technique, the diagram- ‘ming technique, the question and answer technique, and the principle and example technique. In creating documents, you may decide to mix and match these six techniques or models, according to your message and your audience. Indirect versus You will use a direct or indirect approach according to whether you think your audience wants to hear what you have to say — whether you have good ireCt news for them or bad news. If you have bad news, you will probably use an technique indirect approach — that is, you will try and convey some good or neutral news first. This is not hypocritical or procristinating: it is merely placing bad news in some type of context so that the reader does not give up after the first few words. If you have good news — yes, we can give you what you want — then the direct style is appropriate." nase of the indirect style can be seen when writers beat about the bush and do not get to the point, even when they have good news to convey “This abuse is often related to having an //we attitude instead of a you attitude Gee pp. 125-6). ‘The SW-H_ The 5W-H technique is a very simple one learnt by all journalists: when ‘writing a story, answer these questions technique "Wher * When? + why? + what? < Whee? + and How? ‘STRUCTURE AND CLARITY 13 The AIDA technique “4 WRITING INPLAN ENGLISH Itis.a useful model to follow for ensuring that all aspects of a topic are covered, Although all six aspects are not always appropriate, it is surprising just how often they are, When composing a workplace document, you may find it useful to take an enlarged copy of figure 3.1. and use it — use it not only as a planning tool but, as with all of these techniques, as a blockbuster for writer's block. Topic: Question Answer Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Figure 3.1: The SW-H plan for writing AIDA jis simply an acronym for: A | ATTENTION 1 INTEREST DESIRE ACTION ‘When your reader starts your document, you want he oF she to finish reading it, To make that outcome more likely, you need to take readers through a sequence of behavioural phases, cach phase flowing on from the previous one. The AIDA model is just such a sequence, and it can be a very effective one, too, particularly for persuasive communications (table 3.1). Table 3. : The AIDA model Phase | Phase Emphasis How the writer wants no. | name the reader to react 1 ‘Attention | Attention of the reader needs to be gained at the outset. Ifthe | What? On that's document is slow-moving, if the bad indirect approach of interesting tell beating about the bush is employed; ifthe language is lifeless, | me more then the document is probably doomed. No matter what pearls cf wisdom await the patient (or masochistic) reader, such pearls, will remain undiscovered in the majority of cases — they will languish with the rest ofthe text in the waste-basket. Attention can be gained by throwing unusual openings at the reader — a quotation, a startling statistic, an anecdote. 2 Interest | interestin the reader can be awakened by showing the features. | Hmm ..soitcan do of the product or process being talked about, and giving that, hmm? objective proots of excellence such as guarantees or samples. This is an objective appeal to the logical side of the reader. 3 Desire | Desire can be created by stressing the personal benefits of the | Hey ... I've got to product or process for the reader, and tapping deeper got that ‘motivational patterns. Ths is a subjective appeal to the emotional side of the reader. 4 ‘Action ‘Action can be triggered by showing the reader what she or he | How do | get it? ‘can do: respond, telephone, fax, mail a card or letter, get a | What do ldo now? sample sent, attend a demonstration, etc The We will consider two types of diagram here — the pattern diagram and the outline or tree diagram. Ideally the pattern diagram is the basis of the outline diagramming or tree diagram. technique _ Patter diagramming (also known as mind:mapping) is a simple technique for visualising ideas you wish to convey, without imposing a premature and possibly limiting structure upon them. Let's say, for example, that you are the fleet manager for a transport com- pany, You have just leased thirty new vans, and need to brief your drivers on their features, The vans are the latest model of a make you have been using for some years, and have ackled features that the drivers need to know about. You decide to write a memo to the drivers. Copies of this will be placed in the drivers’ pay packets, and will also be posted in the despatch room on the noticeboard. Copies will also be placed as the top sheet on the drivers’ schedule clipboards for the first two months of operating the new vehicles, Where do you start? The indirect/direct, SW-H and AIDA models can help, but perhaps the pattern diagramming approach would be most appropriate here. Here's how it works: 1. Start with a clean sheet of paper and coloured pens. 2. Print words rather than using cursive script. 3. Write your central concept in the centre of the page. 4. As related sub-concepts or related ideas occur to you, draw lines away from the central concept, and identify those lines as sub-concepts. 5.1 the main concept is a tree trunk, and the subconcepts are branches, ‘what about twigs? Develop these twigs, or subsub-concepts which flow out of the branches, or sub-concepts. ‘STRUCTURE AND CLARITY 15 Sketching your thoughts on a diagram, you might come up with something as illustrated in figure 3.2. This pattern diagram in turn could be turned into an outline or tree diagram (figure 3.3). Hands Feet Big loads wt tection any \/ Lv — Wai gene C ‘Automatic a me More ‘Cheaper Dorit Powerful ‘More wear Pn wore sagne (en ood) —tecl/ M8 \ MEG an routes: ‘thirsty ii VAN) \ Fewer and loads te Es Side-access door Safety Z IN oe Bigger Safelyalent’ Dont slack oe \ Toads against Map Legal ale Figure 32: A patern diagram Levelt Level2 Level Leveld Levels Hands New habits << Automatic nec ‘transmission a) ™ Big loads Lower gear Bitty en cheaper ee a More wear =< Minimise wea tues —— Mca” << elng — Plan ace oral lakes // re — Re NeW Safety pr i a fl joo Side-access Select See saley aon Py Dont ack Pent et More power ea << wwetioy — — BA, Louder Figure 3.3: An outline or tree diagram 16 WRITING INPLAN ENGLISH If you wanted to be superorganised, you could develop alphanumeric or decimal outline patterns of your memo (figure 3.4) Alphanumeric system Decimal system 1. Automatic transmission 1.0, Automatic transmission A. New habits 1.1, New habits 1. Hands 1.1, Hands 2. Feet 1.1.2, Feet B. Less fatigue 1.2. Less fatigue . Lower gears still needed 1.3. Lower gears still needed. 1. Big loads 1.3.1, Big loads 2. Milly terrain 1.3.2, Hilly terrain IL, LPG fuel system 2.0. LPG fuel system A. Cheaper 2.1. Cheaper B, More wear and tear 2.2. More wear and tear 1. Don’t rev 2.2.1, Don't rev 2. Minimise 2.2.2. Minimise stopping and stopping and starting starting a. Plan loads 2.2.2.1. Plan loads C. Fewer service stations 2.3. Fewer service stations 1. Plan routes 2.3.1, Plan routes a. Maps 2.3.1.1, Maps D. Safety precautions 2.4, Safety precautions IIL Side access door 3.0. Side access door A. Bigger 3.1. Bigger B. Safety alert 3.2. Safety alert 1. Legal alert 3.2.1. Legal alert C. Don't stack loads against 3.3. Don't stack loads against IV. Engine 4.0. Engine A. More powerful 4.1, More powerful B. More thirsty 4.2. More thirsty 1. Plan routes 4.2.1, Plan routes ©. Louder 4.3. Louder Figure 3.4: Alphanumeric and decimal representations of figures 3.2 and 3:3, ‘The alphanumeric system uses upper- and lower-case letters of the alphabet, together with Arabic and Roman numerals: ‘STRUCTURE AND CLARITY 17 ‘The usual order for alphanumeric outlines 18 WRITING INPLAN ENGLISH Level 1 Level 2 Level 3, Level 4 Level 5 Roman upper Alphabetical — | Arabic numeral | Alphabetical — | Roman lower case numeral upper case Tower case case numeral Af you were writing a report, instruction manual or other formal, mult paged document, such multiple levels of ideas, sub-ideas and so on would form the structure of the headings, sub-headings and so on." Such structure might be overkill in a one- or two-page memo, however. Major sub-points could be made in complete sentences within paragraphs, or else could be made using a combination of headings, sentences and bullet points, such as illustrated in figure 3.5. A number of questions need to be asked about the organisational pattern of our sample memo in figure 3.5. Some authorities suggest that in tree diagrams or alphanumeric or decimal outlines, there should be at least two points arising from the point at the previous level ‘Thus such authorities would be happy with the ovo points LC.1/13.1. Big loads and LC2/13.2. Hilly terrain coming out of LC. /1.3. Lower gears stilt needed. ‘They would not, however, like the single point ILB.2a/22.2.1. Plan loads coming out of 1L8.2/2.2.2. Minimise stopping and starting, or the single point B.1./3.2.1. Legal alert coming out of IILB/3.2. Safety alert. ‘This preference seems to be based upon: + the idea that the eye can more easily follow patterns when lines connecting levels are at angles, rather than flat, and + the idea that most ideas have at least two further sub-divisions, LPLLAN TEL covnsen seavce Get if there in a Flash! ‘To: All drivers FROM: (your nama) SUBJECT: New Racer 3 Vans | Date: 21 September, 1996 We take delivery of the new vans next Tuesday. They look much the same as the Racer 2 model we have been working with, but there are a few key differences you need to know about. These are Automatic transmission LIF you are not familiar with automatic transmission, you will need to develop new habits + You will need to kee sgeae hand on the ge + You will need to put your clutch shift foot on the foot rest provided. Tel that foot it has now retired, You will probably experience less fatigue now that you do not have to shift gears Lower gears (D2, D3) will stil be needed, however, for hilly terrain + ig toads, your hand on the wheel, Resist the habit of resting your L7G (Liquid Propane Gas) ful system LPG is cheaper than petro. LPG will cause more wear and tear on engine, however, and thus drivers + will need to avoid unnecessiry revving. + will need t0 minimise unnecessary stopping and starting. This means you will need to plan loads, avoiding loads of lots of smal deliveries All vehicles will be led cach morning from our base's stocks, but_ please remember that not all service stations carry LPG. If you are travelling far from base, therefore, you will need to plan your route carefully + Note that there is a map of the entire state, showing LPG outlets, near the ‘pumps on base Note that LPG is more volatile than petrol, and special refuelling routines are called for. Side access door ‘The Racer 2 has a hinged rear access door, but the Racer 3 has a sliding door on the driver’ side.1 think we need to note the following: The Racer 3 door is bigger, which will make loading and unloading easier 1 The Racer 3 door is on the drivers side, This means that if you have to unload in the street, you will have to watch out for traffic. + Don't illegally park s0 that the door opens on tw the footpath. Mf you are booked by the police, this will go on your recor fm We have always stacked loads in Racer 25 against both side walls. Don't stack loads against the sliding door, Engine In comparison to the Racer 2, the Racer 3's engine is: more powerful more thirsty. Thus, as with LPG, you will need to + plan your routes carefully Louder, Figure 3.5: A memo based upon diagramming approaches ‘STRUCTURE AND CLARITY 19 Question and answer technique 20, WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH It may be worthwhile spending a short time brainstorming to see if this can be done, to help your reader, and also to further explore the logical structure of your plan. For example, if road maps marked with LPG outlets were provided with each van, then ILG.1/23.1. Plan routes could lead on to two points MG1.a/23.1.1.See maps at base M.G1.b/23.1.2.See maps in vans It may not always be possible to draw out two points from one, however. It will always be preferable to have one real point emerging from another than one real point and one bogus point created just for the sake of a more pretty planning diagram. Other points can be made about the pattern diagram in figure 3.2. For example, Plan routes occurs twice at level 4, but the similarsounding Plan Toads appears once at level 5. 1s this a problem? If so, how could the diagram be redone to prevent such a problem? You may have your own ideas about a more ideal set of planning diagrams, acting as the foundation for a better memo, If you do, then the diagram. system may well be useful for you — useful as a way of stimulating thoughts, and shaping those thoughts into a document that gets the reader (0 keep reading, A question and answer approach to getting ideas across can also be very useful, Most human learning takes place using questions and answers, and thus this model works through sequences most people are already familiar ‘with, Note, for example, figure 3.6¢a) and (b). See. 30.100 30.101 30.105 30.110 30.115 30.120 30.125 30.130 30.135 30.1351 30.1352 30.1353, Purpose. Authority Applicability and scope. Publication, Copi Citation, Public comment. Grant information, Definitions. Administrator, Agency. Allowable costs, Subpart A — Basic Policies 30.200 Grant simplification goals and policy: Figure 3.6(a): A typical regulation — before Table of Contents What are EPA grants for? What kinds of grants are there? Grant programs Unsolicited proposals Who is eligible to apply? How does someone apply for a grant? Overview of the process Details of the steps Allowable costs in a grant Deadlines How will EPA process grant applications? Criteria for awards Procedure How does EPA award the grant? How does EPA pay the grant? How the recipient puts in claims How EPA pays What requirements must recipients satisfy while receiving the grant? What about patents, data, and copyrights? Can the grant be changed? Changes that the re Changes that How to appeal regulation that is easier to understand — after (Source: Redish (1991: 14-15}. Reproduced wih permission.) Figure 3.6(a) shows a table of contents for a regulation document, using decimal headings. Not very inviting or informative is i? Figure 3.6(b) shows the same table of contents, with the main categories now changed to question format. In the main text of the regulation document, these questions become headings, with answers following How does the EPA award the grant? ‘The EPA awards the grant . Question and answer format allows a dialogue to take place between writer and reader. The reader is drawn into the process. Questions mean that verbs ‘will be used, which always adds vigour to writing (see p.62). The only drawbacks to question and answer writing are: + that the writer may not be able to anticipate all of the reader's questions + that the approach can become boring and irritating when sustained over a Jong document. ‘STRUCTURE AND CLARITY 21 Principle and A method of development similar to the question/answer approach is that of principle and example. This simply means that the writer states a general €XAMPIE principle, rule or situation, and then gives an example. Here is an example: If you hold the car for less than 12 weeks, the period must be the ‘entire period for which you held the car. The period may overlap the start or end of the income year, so long as it includes part of that year. Example: lan buys a new car on April 22, 1996 to be used for business purposes. Up to June 30, 1996, only 10 weeks have expired, ‘Therefore the log book should be continued for at least the next two continuous weeks up to the week ending Saturday July 15, 1996. (Source: Motor Vehicle Log Book [1995] Carton: Professional Information, p. 5, Reproduced with permission) ‘The principle/example method allows a writer to state general principles, and then move to specific instances. ‘means that an overview can be given, without losing the reader with an approach which is too abstract (ee pp.65-7) oF too impersonal (see p. 123 1. Create a pattern diagram and an outline or tree diagram of a concept you ‘ACTIVITIES are familiar with. 2. Create a better version of the pattern diagram and the outline or tree diagram shown in figures 3.2 and 3.3. 3. Analyee the strengths and weaknesees of the different approaches to structuring documents, namely, direct/indirect pattern, SW-H, AIDA, diagramming, question and answer, and principle and example. Draw up a table like the one below to fill in your responses. How might it be possible to combine various approaches? ‘Approach Strengths Weaknesses Direct/indirect 5W-H (Who, Why, Where, When, ‘What, How?) AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) Diagramming (pattern and outine or tree diagrams) Question and answer Principle and example 22, WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH SENTENCES AND PARAGRAPHS We tae scen in the last chapter how the structure of ideas in a document indeed can hep ws in deciding for ourselves jst what is we watt © 83), Tet’ now lok at structure within paragraphs and sentences. In chapter 5, wwe will consider how layout can reinforce. the structural cues ‘within paragraphs and sentences READERS, SKIMMERS AND SCANNERS SENTENCES Various approaches can be used to keep the reader moving through a document. These approaches include paragraphing, varied sentence struc ture, headings, bullet points, and transitional expressions. Some of these relate 1 the way we use words, but they have a visual impact ay well, and thus are, from another point of view, relevant and important layout factors. All too often these days readers are not readers, but skimmers and scanners, If you provide a visual pattern for your words that reinforces the underlying structure of exposition, the scanners and skimmers may well become interested enough to become readers again. A sentence expresses a complete thought. The boundaries of a sentence are defined by its punctuation system (see pp. 130-49), A common misunderstanding about plain English is that plain English writing means writing containing only short words and sentences. This, to say the Teast, would be monotonous, and would also be patronising to the reader: we would be assuming that all documents would need to be written in the style of a kindergarten or elementary school reader (see Eagleson’s remarks, p.6) We need to be aware of the different types of sentences, and what their strengths and weaknesses are, The four major sentence types are: + the simple sentence + the complex sentence + the compound sentence + the compound-complex sentence. Table 4.1 gives examples of each of these four sentence types, together with their strengths and weaknesses. It is apparent, for example, that a docu- ‘ment composed only of simple sentences would be choppy and fragmented, and would irritate our readers. Similarly, a document devoid of simple sentences might be too complicated and confusing for our readers. Variety in the way we develop our ideas, and variety in the rhythm of our words on the Page, can have a strong positive effect upon our readers, See appendix A (pp. 162-5) for further definitions of sentence types.) ‘STRUCTURE AND CLARITY AGAIN: SENTENCES AND PARAGRAPHS. 28 24, WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH Table 4.1: Strengths and weaknesses of the four types of sentence structure Sentence structure Positive effects Negative effects ‘Simple — has a single main idea (independent clause). Example: The boat capsized. 1. Simplicity: reader can concentrate on a single unit of thought. 2. Emphasis: ideas are set apart from those in surrounding, longer sentences, 3. Brevity: as start of paragraph, compels reader to find out more, 4, Rhythm: balanced with longer sentences, lures audience. 5. Isolation: breaks complex subject into manageable units. 1. Over-simpiification: can alienate reader. 2. Undue emphasis: contents automatically highlighted, even when wrong to do so. 3. Fragmentation: string of Undifferentiated ideas. ‘Compound — has two or more main ideas. Example: ‘The boat capsized and the passengers got wet. 1. Correlation: creates dynamic, inherent relationship between two ideas: equality, sequence (or juxtaposition. 2. Rhythm: balance between two ideas of ‘equal importance. 1. Inappropriate correlation: makes inaccurate relationship of equality, ‘sequence or juxtaposition, Misleads reader. 2. Fragmentation: string of undifferentiated ideas. Complex — has one main idea and ‘one or more lesser Ideas. Example: When the boat capsized, the passengers got wet. ‘Compound ‘complex — has two (or more main ideas and one or more lesser ideas. Example: When the waves ‘came up, the boat capsized and the passengers got wet. 4. Subordination: indicates clear-cut relationship between two or more ideas. 2, Emphasis:idea in main Clause receives greater attention. 3, Floxbiliy: varity of conjunctions to express wide range of relationships. 4. Economy:eliminates redundancy of separate sentences. Compaciness: combines many ideas into a single packet of information. 1. Inappropriate subordination: depicts inaccurate relationships between two or more ideas. 2. Inappropriate emphasis: Idea in main clause does Tot deserve greater attention. 83. Inappropriate relationship: inaccurate indicator of relationship selected. 1, Density:too many ideas combined. 2. Lack of clarity: relationships between ideas become jumbled. 3. Lack of emphasis: Importance of any one idea is lost in the mass. (Source: Frances B. Emerson, Technical Wing. Copyright© 1987 by Houghton Mii Company. Reproduced with mission ) PARAGRAPHS ‘You may notice when working with some word processing software packages that the packages will give messages about ‘inappropriate’ sentence length. These packages embody some useful warnings about sentence length, and provide a useful reality check every now and then. Be careful, however, about slavishly following the recommendations built into such packages. Socalled readability formulas are guidetines only, and not profound truth. Let your eyes and ears, and the eyes and ears of your readers, be the best guide (See chapter 15), ‘The most visually obvious approach to expression and layout is paragraphing, Words are the building blocks of sentences; sentences are the building blocks of paragraphs; and paragraphs are the building blocks of larger aggregates — documents, letters, memos, or se or chapters of larger reports, proposals, novels or nonfiction works. What is a paragraph? A paragraph is normally a group of sentences that ‘express different aspects of the one idea. When the writer moves on to a new idea, then a new paragraph is begun. Nevertheless, if a writer can express an idea in one sentence, and then moves onto a new idea, it is quite possible for a paragraph to be composed of only one sentence. How do we know when a new paragraph has begun in something we are reading, or should begin in something we are writing? We can tell firstly if there is a change in idea, and such a change is often shown by the presence of a topic sentence. Such a sentence may come at the beginning of the para- graph, but it may also occur at the end, or at some stage between the begin- ning and the end. The topic sentence sums up what the paragraph is about, and is usually a statement; but sometimes it is a question, as in the ques that begins this paragraph. ‘STRUCTURE AND CLARITY AGAIN: SENTENCES AND PARAGRAPHS. 25 28 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH We can also tell that a new paragraph has begun simply because of the layout of the words on the page. A new paragraph can be shown by indenting or moving the text in slightly from the left margin. This indentation can vary considerably in size, depending upon whether we are writing by hand or using a keyboard, The main criterion of the size of the indentation is that it be easily visible, Another way of laying out text in paragraphs is not to indent text, but to simply leave a space between paragraph blocks on the page. This style is sometimes favoured in business correspondence, ‘The purpose of paragraphing is twofold. Firstly, it is a discipline for writers, ensuring that there is a logical framework or pattern of progression for the ideas being expressed. When we write, we develop a logical progression of ideas, from the introduction to the conclusion, in discrete or separate steps. Secondly, paragraphing makes the task of reading the cntire passage of writing that much easier. The indentations or spacing provide cues to the reader about the flow of ideas, and make the entire passage much more ‘digestible’. One uninterrupted block of text would be rather forbidding, but paragraphing makes that sime block of text much more manageable. Making a transition between paragraphs entails making a transition between ideas, and this process can be helped by the use of various connective words and phrases (figure 4.1) Such connectors can also be used within paragraphs, of course: they can be used at the head of sentences where you develop the one subject or theme, as opposed to developing a new subject or theme in the first sentence of a new paragraph. ‘There is an almost infinite number of ways that ideas can be developed in sequence of paragraphs. You might choose to develop your ideas in a chrono- logical sequence (To start at the beginning... / “The historical background to this problem is ...), a reverse chronological sequence, a general to specific sequence, a specific to general sequence, 4 problem/solution or question/ answer sequence CHow do we know when a new paragraph has begun? We know this when... and so on. Sometimes the material itself will suggest a sequence. Sometimes it is only imposing a sequence on your material that allows you to start writing, ‘A. Connectors that add assertions to one another in coordinate relationships and, also, too, moreover, oF, nor, furthermore, 80 t00, then too, similaly, likewise, besides, in addition B. Connectors that bring assertions together in contrast, opposition, or contradiction to one another but, yet, however, though, although, on the contrary, at the sime time, on the other hand, in contrast, instead C. Connectors used when summing up the consequences of the results of a series of assertions or minor points therefore, thus, and so, 50, hence, consequently, all in all, in short, on the whole, as a result, in brief, in general, in other words, in summary D, Connectors used to introduce an illustration for an assertion for example, for instance, for one thing, illustratively, to illustrate E, Connectors that introduce a reason or a justification for an assertion because, inasmuch as, since E_ Connectors that introduce an amplification or elaboration upon an assertion frequently, occasionally, usually, specifically, especially, in fact, as a matter of fact, in particular, actually, indeed, even G, Connectors for conceding a point that does not support a generalisation it is true that, of course, no doubt, understandably, to be sure, granted that H. Connectors for reasserting a generalisation after making an exception to it despite, still, nevertheless, in spite of, notwithstanding 1. Connectors used to build towards a climax ‘more important(ly), more significantly), what J. Connectors to help narrow your focus towards a specific point specifically, more to the point, looking more closely at K. Connectors to indicate a forward movement in time then, later, next, after that, finally, at last, at Jong last, in time, in a while, eventually, subsequently, thereafter L. Connectors indicating a backward movement in time previously, earlier, before that, prior to that, formerly ‘M. Connectors that shift a reader's focus in space above, below, ahead, behind, to the right, to the left N. Connectors that indicate simultaneity Figure 4.1: Connective words and phrases (Source: Wells 1988: 142-143]. Reproduced with permission.) meanwhile, in the meantime, simultaneously, at the same time, at that moment ‘STRUCTURE AND CLARITY AGAIN: SENTENCES AND PARAGRAPHS. 27 ‘28 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH 1. Take a sample of writing (an extract from a book, a letter, an extract from an essay of report you have written). Analyse the approach to para- graphing. |s it effective or ineffective? Rewrite the passage with different paragraphing. Is this an improvement or not? Compare your efforts with those of someone else. 2. The following passage is comprised entirely of simple sentences. Rewrite the passage, linking related ideas. Connector words and phrases (p. 25) may be of use here. You may, of course, find it appropriate to leave some simple sentences untouched. You may find it necessary to delete and add certain words and perhaps impose a paragraph structure. Compare your efforts with those of someone else. ‘The new colour printer arrived in the office. It arrived today. It caused much excitement. It was very expensive. It cost over $7000. Will it prove to be money well spent? Only time will tell. Cynthia is my co- worker. She thinks that the printer will be important. It will be important ‘for her work. Her work consists of designing forms. She likes to experi- ment with colour. She says that colour can help customers’ under- standing of the forms. It can also hinder their understanding of the forms. My work does not require colour printouts of anything. | think that this is true for most people on this floor. An exception might be Jeff. Another exception might be Jared. Jeff and Jared often give pre- sentations. They give presentations to area managers. The presen- tations are on accounting systems. Interest can be created in presentations by colour overhead transparencies. This printer will pro- duce such transparencies. J tend to think that this is yesterday's tech- nology. Graphics created on a computer can now be projected. A projector is linked to the computer. The projector projects colour images onto a screen. Such projections can be dynamic. ‘Dynamic’ means moving. An example of a moving image would be an animated chart. Audiences find these effects interesting. Half the battle of a pres- entation is holding your audience's attention. Jeff disagrees with my analysis. He thinks computer projectors are too young a technology. Too many things can go wrong. This is not true of simple overhead transparencies. They can't show movement. They can't break down. HEADINGS, NUMBERING, TYPEFACES AND OTHER AIDS sidered how structure, paragraphing and sentence ture can influence the look and the logic of your document. In this chapter struc: ‘we will consider aspects of layout, and in the next we will consider the closely related technique of presenting data in graphic and other forms, HEADINGS Subheadings Just as paragraphing ca stand those i papers and magazines — they break up the text and give the reader instant cues as to the content of groups of sentences and paragraphs, Parallelism Document headings can be identified by using different grammatical u in help writers express ideas and help readers under leas, So too can headings. Headings act like headlines in news- Noun phrase ‘Computer system crashes, Participial phrase Preventing computer system crashes Descriptive statement Subdividing documents may not necessarily solve the problem of applications packages locking up and causing PCs to crash, Imperative statement Identify software instability problems, Partial statement Document stability problems still present Question ting and pa software crashes? ing of graphic material the real sou You should try to avoid mixing grammatical units in headings, such as 2.1. Background to computer crashes 2.2. Identifying shortcomings of current hardware system 2.3. Test for specific weaknesses in word processing packages 2.4, Are workers creating overcomplex documents? 25. New operating systems (Windows 96) may solve problems anyway Although parallelism can lend a plea 1% unity to your documents, don’t become enslaved to the idea. Don't, for example, mutilate the flow of your ideas merely to ensure parallelism. English is a rich language, but it is not so rich that it allows us to express all ideas in all grammatical units, LAYOUT: HEADINGS, NUMBERING, TYPEFACES AND OTHER AIDS. 20 NUMBERING In some styles of writing — some scientific and legal areas, for example — the numbering of paragraphs and headings is expected (see pp. 17-18). This can end a dimension of precision in the development of ideas, sub-ideas, sub-sub- leas, and so on. Roman numerals (1, Il I. IV, V) or Arabic numerals (1, 2. 3 4, 5) can be used, as can letters (A, B, C, D, E.) These can be used in combi- nation (Paragraph B.1.2/Section IV [a)), but be careful not to confuse your reader, Ensure also that the precision of such systems is real, and not spurious, and ensure that such numbering systems do not interrupt the flow of your ideas, BULLET POINTS In this chapter, we are considering various aspects of document production, such as headings, parallelism, numbering, bullet points, typefaces, and white space, Ivy possible present the information in dhe previous sentence in a different way, for example: In this chapter, we are considering various aspects of document production, such as: + headings *+ parallelism ‘+ numbering + bullet points + typefaces + white space. ‘This mode of exposition uses bullet points. For certain types of information, it is very effective. Obviously a bullet point exposition of words will take up more space than a straight narrative exposition, that is, with words contained in normal sentences. It may well be, however, that for certain types of information and for certain types of audience, a bullet point exposition will at least increase the probability that the information is read. A narrative exposition may appear cramped and unattractive, and thus may contribute to the audience not feeling motivated sufficiently to read the message. TYPES AND FONTS 90, WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH ‘There are two main groups of type or typefaces — serif and sans serif. Serif literally means line, and thus serif types are ones that have small lines at the top and at the bottom of letters, while sans serif types lack such lines: M M ‘The letter M in Times New ‘The letter M in Arial (25 point. Roman (25 point). Times New Arial is a sans serif type. Roman is a serif type. People tend to hold strong views on whether serif or sans serif types are better." Serif types are more traditional, and may help the reader's eye along a line of words. Serif types also vary in # may thus add variety. Sans serif types, on the other hand, appear cleaner, bolder and more ‘modern to some. Their legibility is apparent, for example, in Sans scrifs, however, present some legibility problems to som words such as Illustrate, ‘Type size Type sizes are referred to in imperial or non-metric measures. There are 72 ‘points to an inch, and there are 12 points in a pica. Figure 5.1 shows differing point sizes for Times New Roman and Aria This This i is Times This is Arial This is Times New Roman type. ‘Times New Roman 15 pt ‘This is Times New Roman. It is a serif type ‘Times New Roman 12 pt ‘This is Times New Roman. Iisa serif type. ‘Times New Roman 9 pt ‘Times New Roman 6 pt Figure 5.1: A seri series and a sans serif series A font i This is Arial type. Arial 15 pt This is Arial. It is a sans serif type. Arial 12 pt This is Arial tis a sans serif type. Arial 9 pt ‘ha il i se set Wp, Sr pone pt eres pe Arial 6 pt nply the complete assortment of letters, numerals, punctuation marks and other characters of a specific type or typeface, Thus figure 5.2 shows an example of a font so defined: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPORSTUVWXYZ abcdefghijkimnopqrstuvwxyz 1234567890;.,? Figure 5.2: An Arial font Strictly speaking, figure 5.1 shows two type series — typefaces at different point sizes. The creators of computer software programs, however, tend to ignore the scries/type/font distinctions, and simply use the general word ‘font LAYOUT: HEADINGS, NUMBERING, TYPEFACES AND OTHERAIDS. 31 Type in lines: kerning, pitch, leading and spacing 92, WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH to cover all meanings. This meaning is now becoming the dominant one, much to the displeasure of some people who have worked with type for many. years. Nevertheless, the change has some virtue, in that it may reduce con- fusion over the meaning of words: font mainly refers to typefaces, with any. other meanings (baptismal font and font [fount] of wisdom) being quite sep- arate, and easily grasped from the context the word might be found in; p;pe, however, refers to typefuces, but is also a general word meaning a class or category (that ‘ype of person), which can lead to confusion. ‘Types or fonts can also be characterised by whether they are bold, italic, bold italic, light, medium, black, and condensed: Arial Arial Arial Arial Bold Italic Bold italic Black Arial Arial ial Arial Light Medium Condensed Black italic ‘Typefaces of different weights and styles can be used to reinforce the idea of hierarchy in your headings, with main headings receiving the strongest treat- ‘ment, subheadings using less dominant fonts, and so on (see pp. 17-18, 29). ‘Word processing and desktop publishing packages now place many fonts in the hands of the layperson, Previously, such technology was available only t0 printers and graphic artists. Merely because you have 2 technology, however, does not mean that you should use it, or should use all of it. If you do vary fonts within the document, try and restrict the number of fonts to three — atherwise the document will look messy and amateurish, like a painting done by someone who has just been given a big new box of paints, and has enthu- siastically decided to use every colour, Increasing or decreasing the letter spacing of type is known as kerning. Thi means that the spacing of letters along lines is narrowed. Word processing packages have inherited much terminology from the world of typewriters, and horizontal spacing is referred to in such packages as pitch. Too little spacing between letters, or too much, can prove unattractive and distracting to the eyes of the reader: Increasing or Increasing or Increasing or decreasing the decreasing the decreasing the space space between space between between letters is letters is known | letters is known as_—| knowns Auming. as kerning, Too kerning. Too little ‘Too litle or too much Tittle of too much | or too much spacing between spacing between | spacing between letters can prowe letters can prove | letters can prove ‘unattractive and, unattractive and unattractive and distracting to the eyes distracting to the | distracting to the of the reader eyes of the eyes of the reader. reader, ‘Too much space Normal letter spacing _—_Not enough space Kerning relates to horizontal spacing of text. The vertical spacing of text — the space between lines — is referred to as leading (pronounced ledding), ‘Too much or too little leading can also prove unattractive and distracting to your reader: sing lags wo hoana aecing ole, pg agacine of Fe EE Re ee poe BCI a Too litle leading Kerning relates to horizontal spacing of text. The vertical spacing of text — the space between lines — is referred to as leading (pronounced ledding). Too much or too little leading can also prove unattractive and distracting to your reader: t ‘Acceptable leading Kerning relates to horizontal spacing of text. The vertical spacing of text — the space between lines — is referred to as leading (pronounced fedding). ‘Too much or too little leading can also prove unattractive and distracting to your reader: t ‘Too much leading A rule of thumb used by many editors and typesetters is to determine leading by adding two point sizes to the typefice or font size. A book or newspaper set in 10 point might thus have 12 points of leading (written as 10/12). Solid teading means that the point size and font size are the same (g., 10/10), while minus leading means that the leading is smaller than the height of the font (e.g., 10/9). Books often give details of font or typeface, together with leading, on the imprint page, which usually follows the title page. What are the font/leading details of this book? Word processing packages, as has been mentioned, have contributed to the term font squeezing out the term type. Perhaps something similar is happening here: word processing terminology is again taking over from type- setting terminology, so that pitch is squeezing out kerning, and spacing is squeezing out leading. It’s not a waste of your time to know about such technological terms: if you need to create complex documents, then professionals from different fields Ceditors, copywriters, graphic artists, printers, desktop publishers, general key- boarding staff) will use different terminology for much the sume things. Because of these differences, you may need to translate your ideas into someone else’s terminology to get the look you want, LAYOUT: HEADINGS, NUMBERING, TYPEFACES AND OTHER AIDS 38 ‘The length of lines on the page can also have a considerable impact upon your readers: ‘Type in line: length Here is an example of text. There's not much you can say about this text, except that it contains some quite short words, such as miu, f, me, eb, and pi, as well as some extraordinarily long words, such as supercalifragelisticexpialidocious and antidisestablishmentarianism. The main thing to note with text of this kind — and indeed with text of any kind — is that the reader should not be distracted from the content of the words to the actual look of the words and their constituent letters. As soon as that happens, then the reader is like an audience member at a concert where the piano tuner is still working on the piano while the pianist is playing: no matter how hard that audience member tries, he or she simply cannot concentrate on the music. Text across full width Here is an example of text ‘There's not_ much you can say about this text, except that it con- tains some quite short words, such, as mu, I, me, eb, and bi, as well as some extraordinarily long words, such as supercalifragelisticexpial- idocious and antidisestablishmen- tarianism. "The main thing to note with text of this kind — and \deed with text of any kind — is that the reader should not be dis- tracted from the content of the words to the actual look of the words and their constituent let ters. AS soon as that happens, then the reader is like an audience member at a concert where the piano tuner is still working on the piano while the pianist is playing: ‘no matter how hard that audience member tries, he or she simply cannot concentrate on the music. Text across narrow width ‘The first block of text has fines that are too long, This means that the mar- gins are too narrow, and there is not enough white space (ee p.37). The second block of text has lines that are too short, which means that the margins are too big, and there is too much white space. Setting up blocks of text like these two blocks means that the reader simply has to work too hard to concentrate on just what the writer is saying. A standard rule of thumb would be that if you have a document in a 12 point font, aim to ‘get 70 to 75 characters, or ten to twelve words, on each line, Keep in mind that text set up in columns can be quite attractive, but that you will have more problems with justification (see next page) and hyphenation, or word-breaks. ‘34, WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH Here is an example and antidisestablish- soon as that happens, of text. There's not mentarianism. ‘The then the reader is like much you can say main thing to note an audience member about this text, with text of this kind at a concert where except that it con- — and indeed with the piano tuner is still tains some quite text of any kind — is working on the piano short words, such as that the teader while the pianist is mu, I, me, eb, and should not be dis- playing: no matter ‘i, as well as some tracted from the con- how hard that audi- extraordinarily long tent of the words to. ence member tries, words, such as the actual look of the he or she simply supercalifragelis- words and their con- cannot concentrate ticexpialidocious stituent letters. AS on the music ‘Text set up in columns Justification Justification relates to horizontal spacing of letters, particularly in relation to ‘margins. Here is an example of fullyjustified text. There’s not much you can say about this text, except that it contains some quite short words, such as mu, I, me, eb, and bi, as well as some extraordinarily long words, such as supercalifragelisticexpialidocious and _antidisestablishmentari- anism. ‘The main thing to note with text of this kind — and indeed with text of any kind — is that the reader should not be distracted from the content of the words to the actual look of the words and their constituent letters. AS soon as that happens, then the reader is fe an audience member at a concert where the piano tuner is still ‘working on the piano while the pianist is playing: no matter how hard that audience member tries, he or she simply cannot concentrate on. the music. Full justification Here is an example of leftjustified text. There’s not much you can say about this text, except that it contains some quite short words, such as ‘mu, I, me, eb, and bi, as well as some extraordinarily long words, such as supercalifragelisticexpialidocious and. antidisestablishmentarianism. The main thing to note with text of this kind — and indeed with text of any kind — is that the reader should not be distracted from the content of the words to the actual Took of the words and their constituent letters. As soon as that happens, then the reader is like an audience member at a concert where the piano tuner is still working on the piano while the pianist is playing: no matter how hard that audience member tries, he or she simply cannot concentrate on the music. Left justified, tlush left or ragged right justification LAYOUT: HEADINGS, NUMBERING, TYPEFACES AND OTHER AIDS. 35, Upper and lower case ‘96. WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH Notice that the fully justified text has variable spacings between letters. This is necessary to ensure that words touch both left and right margins. Left- justified, flush left or ragged right justification means that the spacings between letters are the same, with the result that the words at the right-hand- side margin finish at different points. As with so much of document layout, there is controversy about which is better. Some believe that ragged right is more relaxed and informal, and more natural. Others believe that people are used (0 full justification, and are made uneasy by ragged right, What conven- tion has been followed with this book? ‘Try and avoid blocks of text solely in uppercase. The effect is wearing on the eye of the reader, particularly if leading or vertical spacing is narrow: HERE IS AN EXAMPLE OF TEXT. THERE'S NOT MUCH YOU CAN SAY ABOUT THIS TEXT, EXCEPT THAT IT CONTAINS SOME QUITE SHORT WORDS, SUCH AS MU, J, ME, EH, AND HI, AS WELL AS SOME EXTRAORDINARILY LONG WORDS, SUCH AS SUPERCALIFRAGELIS- TICEXPIALIDOCIOUS AND ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM. THE MAIN THING TO NOTE WITH TEXT OF THIS KIND — AND INDEED WITH TEXT OF ANY KIND — ISTHAT THE READER SHOULD NOT BE DISTRACTED FROM THE CONTENT OF THE WORDS TO THE ACTUAL LOOK OF THE WORDS AND THEIR CONSTITUENT LETTERS. AS SOON AS THAT HAPPENS, THEN THE READER IS LIKE AN AUDIENCE MEMBER, ATA CONCERT WHERE THE PIANO TUNER IS STILL WORKING ONTHE PIANO WHILE THE PIANIST IS PLAYING: NO MATTER HOW HARD. ‘THAT AUDIENCE MEMBER TRIES, HE OR SHE SIMPLY CANNOT CONCENTRATE ON THE MUSIC, Upper-case block of text Uppercase letters are like shouting: when done every now and then for emphasis, they attract attention; when done all the time, they lose their novelty, and no-one pays attention any more. SPACE White sj pace Response space COLOUR ACTIVITIES: White space refers to the amount of white paper visible on a page featuring text. This means space around the text (margins) and within the text (kern- ing, pitch or horizontal spacing, and leading or vertical spacing). It can also mean space around blocks of text, like paragraphs and sections. Jamming text up to try and save space and paper is, unfortunately, false economy. It irritates and distracts the reader, and may in fact mean the difference between your message being read and not being read. Try and think of white space as a Dalance to your text, just as painter uses blocks of colour to balance against each other, or a composer uses silence against sound, If you want your readers to do something — for example, write in their name, address, signature and other details on a form — then you have to give them, the space to do this, Some people have quite long names and/or addresses, and some people’s handwriting or printing takes up a fair amount of space. AS with white space, don’t resort to false economy by cramping up your page — it irritates readers, and it may lead them to make illegible and thus useless responses Colour in documents costs money, although the cost is coming down as printing technology advances. Even if you can afford colour, however, you should restrict its use. As with fonts, it is tempting to use something just because you've got it, but overuse is a mistake. Use colour sparingly, to give your readers cues to headings, filkin boxes and other significant areas (note the remarks about colour in graphics, pp. 53~4). 1. Gather together a number of documents or publications — letters, news- letters, magazines, books, reports, advertisements. Compare and contrast the ways in which they have been designed (headings, numbering, bullet points, parallelism, fontitype, leading, kerning/pitch, justification, white space, and colour). Would you have treated them differently? If so, how? 2. Find a block of solid text — for example, a long encyclopaedia entry. Restructure it by using different paragraphing, numbered headings and bullet points. Compare the original text to your re-write. LAYOUT: HEADINGS, NUMBERING, TYPEFACES AND OTHER AIDS. 37 ‘VISUALS: PRO ‘38 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH GRAPHIC COMMUNICATION AND We now have a clearer idea of the roe of planing structure and layout in documents, The look of your document also can be critically affected by the way in which you present data. Some ideas can be conveyed more effectively using graphic or visual communication, The software revolution of the past few years has meant that complex graphic tools, such as charts or diagrams of various kinds, can now be created by any of ws. But care has to be exercised. When using visual communication of data — in graphs, charts, tables, or other visual forms — we need to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the individual visual modes. We need to ask ques: tions such as: what is our purpose here? What is it we are trying to show? Once we know the answers to such questions, we can choose different visual modes according to their unique strengths, We will soon look at the pros and cons oF strengths and weaknesses of specific visual modes, but first let us. consider the bigger picture: what are the pros and cons or strengths and ‘weaknesses of visual communication in general? Visuals can give a quick summary or overview of a situation or a phenomenon that might otherwise tke hundreds or thousands of words (© explain or describe. It is not always true that a picture is worth a thousand words: most visual presentations of data would be meaningless without words identifying just what it is we are looking at in a table or graphic or photograph, and words can sometimes be the major part of a chart or table, Table 6.1, for example, provides a summary of this point together with various cons and other pros, With words and visuals, it’s not a case of words nersus visuals: they are complementary, not in competition. Visuals can thus reinforce and back up the verbal message you are communicating in print of, for that matter, in speech, Is can reveal trends and comparisons that might otherwise be buried a mass or words or numbers. A table can clarify the patterns embedded in wordy descriptions, while a graph may, in turn, make such patterns even clearer, Visual presentation of data can lead to a shorter document. There's simply no need to describe everything in tedious detail ial presentation can add variety to your text or presentation, The monotony of just words, words, words can be avoided. Visual presentation can grab the interest of your audience, There is a sense of entertainment or fun with visual presentation, and fun is a serious business when you are trying to communicate. People process information in different ways, and shape, colour and pattern in your visuals can reach your readers in ways that words alone cannot. This becomes more true every day, with people becoming more dependent — some would say overdependent — ‘upon the razzamatazz presentation of information on television and in colour magazines and newspapers Table 6.1: Visuals: the good and the bad (a visual aid about visual aids) Hooray! Visuals can ... Boo! But visuals can ... 1. summarise 1. eonfuse and distort 2. back up your words 2. tivialise 3, clarify and reveal 3. aistrac from your words 4, shorien space and time needed —_| 4. lengthen space and time needed 5. add variety 5, be expensive and bothersome 6. entertain and permit visual 6. demonstrate your amateurism processing of information 7. stimulate you to discover trends, comparisons and possibilities 8, be cheap and/or cost-effective 9, demonstrate your professionalism ‘The sense of fun and play is important for the producer of visuals, not just for the consumer. People who write documents rarely have their imaginations challenged by the slabs of descriptive text or tables of numbers that they have to deal with. Visual presentation of the same data, however, may reveal to them trends, comparisons and entirely new possibilities that were not obvious before, or at least if they were, were only made obvious after the undertaking of incredibly hard work. Such revelation comes easily with the full exploit- ation of the visual capabilities of graphics, spreadsheet and database software packages: the writer can transform data quickly and in many ways, with colour and shape not only giving form to his or her initial perceptions of the data but also stimulating new perceptions, Visual presentation can be cheap, and if not cheap, then costeffective. Again, software packages have been helpful, as have printers linked to com- puters: writers/presenters can quickly create complex visuals, and reproduce them more cheaply than if the visuals had to be created by hand and repro- duced via largescale colour printing processes. If the visuals are instrumental in persuading the audience to adopt your point of view, then any production costs for such visuals might be repaid many times over, nally, visual presentation of data can convey the message that you are a professional, that you know what you're talking about. The audience may be flattered that you have gone to so much trouble, and that may mean that the audience is more receptive to your ideas. Good visuals can give you high credibility. GRAPHIC COMMUNICATION AND CLARITY 99 VISUALS: CON ‘There is a downside to visuals, however. It is easy to produce visuals that are confusing and that distort the original message. The generation of such confusion and distortion may be purely accidental and be quite innocent, of it may be part of a deliberate strategy of deception, Visuals can trivialise your message. Sometimes the succinctness and power of words alone, or words aided by only a few visuals, are all that is required for effective communication of complex ideas to take place. A visualshappy person, however, may trivialise her entire message by attempting to reduce complex ideas to a series of graphs, charts, tables, diagrams, illustrations, logos, symbols, and cartoons — all of which may be pretty, but which may be pretty oversimplified as well Visuals can back up your words if used correctly, but if used incorrectly, just as easily distract from your words, This may be because the visual is too successful’, that is, the visual is so well done that people give more attention to it than to the accompanying written words. Or it may be because the visual exposes too much information at one particular stage of an argument. For example, if you display a complex table, graphic or diagram while only writing about part of it, you may find that the audience is no longer concentrating upon your words, but the picture jsuals may allow you to shorten the space and time needed to communi- cate a message, but equally, they may lengthen the space and time needed. Visuals can rarely stand on their own: they need an accompanying commen- tary, to bring out what is explicit and implicit within them. It still might be quicker (0 use a visual and some commentary than to use just words, but there is no guarantee that this will always be the case. This may not always be a problem, but sometimes it may be. Visuals can be cheap, but they can also be expensive and bothersome. ‘Cheap’ and ‘expensive’ are relative concepts. A MercedesBenz car may be cheaper than a RollsRoyce, but such ‘cheapness’ does not necessarily enable you {0 buy the Mercedes. Similarly it may be cheaper to produce visuals on a computer and printer, using specialised software, than it is to produce visuals using artists and full scale colour press printing, but you may not be able to afford the computer, printer and software in the first place. It also takes time to learn how to use such technology, and such learning can be expensive in terms of your time, and also can be an arduous and bothersome process. Finally, while good visuals can be a testament to your professionalism, bad uals can be a testament to your amateurism. This amateurism might be con veyed in the selection, execution or presentation of visuals. You might choose the wrong ones, indicating your lack of experience and knowledge in this area, Having chosen the right ones, you might execute them badly (clumsy execution, inappropriate or garish colours, poor layout within the surrounding text, ignorance or abuse of visual conventions of scale, labelling, attribution of sources, etc.) VISUALS: WHAT THEY ARE, AND HOW TO USE THEM 40. WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH ‘The strengths and weaknesses of the various modes of visual presentation relate to the type of communication problem you are trying to solve. What are you trying to say, and what is the nature of your data, or raw information? Are you trying to describe a trend — a phenomenon that happens over time — for example, the growth of plants in a garden? Or are you trying t0 draw a comparison between different parts of something, where time is not Pie graphs immediately important — for example, the amounts of money allowed for the budgets of different departments in the one organisation, expressed as. pro- portions or fractions of the total budget? Are you trying to measure a constant — something that doesn’t change — or a variable — something that does? Perhaps you are measuring a continuous variable, which is one that can theoretically assume any value between two given values — for example, the height of an individual (height canbe, say, 1.7 metres, 1.71 metres, or 1.7LL111 metres). Or perhaps you are measuring a discrete variable, which cannot theoretically assume any value between two given values — for example, the number of children in a family (the number might be three or four, but cannot be 3.56)."° Within the visual itself, different parts — lines, slices of a pie, and so on — can be labelled with words placed within the graph, or by lines from different parts leading to explanatory words (called calfouts), or they can be identified by a legend or key. Such a legend or key is an explanatory table or list of symbols (by colour or shape) placed near the graph. ‘The terms graph and chart are sometimes used interchangeably to refer to pies, bars, lines and so on, The convention adopted here will be to refer to these things as graphs, while charts will be used to refer to flow charts, Let's now turn our attention to the various modes of visual presentation, ‘These are also known as circle graphs. Pie graphs (igure 6.1) are very useful when you need to show the components o parts of one particular set of data. ‘The different components should add up to 100 per cent. The largest slice or ‘component is placed at the 12 o'clock position (on an analog clock, of course), and then other progressively smaller slices or components are arranged in a clockwise direction. If you need to draw a pie chart by hand, remember: + there are 360° in a circle + therefore 3.6° equals 1 per cent + therefore percentage values of pie slices need to be multiplied by 3.6 to deter ‘mine the arc or length of the slice, €.g.,20 per cent x 3.6 = 72° ‘To measure degrees precisely, you need to use a protractor, GRAPHIC COMMUNICATION AND CLARITY. 41 42 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH Juggernaut Manufacturing Budget allocations, 1996-1997 Training (5.79%) Service (10.74%) Manufacturing (35.53%) JAdministration (17.36%) — Sales/Marketing (30.58%) Figure 6.1: A pie graph Pie charts are very useful for showing proportional relationships, but don’t overload them. If you need to show more than six values, a pie chart can be cluttered. This clutter can be minimised by simply combining a number of the smaller values into a miscellaneous or ‘other’ slice, or else by using another visual entirely — for example, a 100 per cent bar graph, or a table, be emphasised by ‘exploding’ it (figure 6.2). A slice Juggernaut Manufacturing Budget allocations, 1996-1997 Training (5.79% Service (10.74%) — Man alta eo) | Administration (17.36%) Sales/Marketing (30.58%) Figure 6.2: An exploded pie graph Comparisons with other similar sets of data — for example, budget allo- cations in four different years — may mean that multiple pie charts might be used. If you need to use more than four sets of data, it might be best t0 use a multiple line graph. Pie charts can be rendered in two dimensions or in three, Three- dimensional pie charts are more dramatic, but they might prove fractionally harder to read if your audience needs precise data. Pie charts are not good for showing variation over time, and are not useful for showing negative values. They are also not very good for showing pre values. If real precision is needed, use a table Bar graphs simple bar graphs Multiple bar graphs ‘There are numerous types of bar graphs. Most of them are used to show dis- crete values, usually varying over time. Some people prefer to restrict the term ‘bar graph’ to graphs where the bars are arranged horizontall ‘column graph’ for graphs where the bars are displayed vertic: the term ‘bar graph’ to cover both horizontal and ver will use this broader definition. Note that with bar (and line) graphs, time is plotted on the horizontal (x) axis, while other values are plotted on the vertical (y) axis. using the term ly. Others use cal displays Simple bar discrete figure. aphs are useful for showing data such as annual sales — a Gizmo sales are recovering sc00 000 3 ann 2 aww 1000 ‘i | 1993 ~«1904-~=~=«*N805~=~*«VG:C*«OG Figure 6.3: A bar graph If you need more precision — for © imple, monthly, weekly or daily sales — you would be better off with a line graph or a table. A simple bar graph, however, can make a clear, bold statement about trends. Multiple bar charts can be useful for showing sets of discrete data (figure 6.4). ‘They are useful for comparing, say, sales of four products over a number of years. Displaying more than four items can lead to visual confusion, and a line ‘graph or a table would be preferable in such cases. Gizmos are our best seller so B sooo 2 20m. 5 1000 ° 1993 1994 1995, 1996 1997 Gizmos = Wnatsis Dooveriackies = Thingummybobs Figure 6.4: A multiple bar graph GRAPHIC COMMUNICATION AND CLARITY. 43 Stacked bar graphs 100 per cent bar graphs 44, WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH Stacked bar graphs have values stacked on top of each other (figure 6.5). Gizmos are our best seller 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 = Gizmos = Whatsits Dooverlackies = Thingummybobs Figure 6.5: A comparison stacked bar graph ‘The stacked bar graph is useful for showing components of wholes or aggre- gates, The stacked bar graph, however, like the area graph (see p. 47), has a ‘major drawback — while the value at the bottom of the stack is relatively easy to read off the y, or vertical, axis, all further values up the stack are more difficult to read of. Whereas the stacked bar graph shows the absolute or real quantities of a particular variable, the 100 per cent bar graph shows the relative quantities of that variable (igure 6.6). Juggernaut Manufacturing Budget allocations: 1995-1996, 1996-1997 ime - i as i «as es mm mae a "= Manufacturing = Sales/Marketing = Training = Administration» Service Figure 6.6: Multiple 100 per cent comparison bar graph As such, it has much in common with the pie graph, which shows pro- portions or relative quantities. If one wanted to see the absolute or real quantities involved (dollars, kilograms, etc.), reference would need to be made toa table or a graph with real values. Note that this particular example is rotated, ie., the bars are displayed horizontally rather than vertically. This can be done with any bar graph. Three- dimensional bar graphs Variation/ deviation bar graphs ‘Threedimensional rendering of graphs can give you dramatic and attractive effects, and the 3-D bar graph is no exception to this (figure 6.7) Gizmos are our best seller Units sold Figure 6.7: Three-dimensional bar graph You need to exercise care, however, as 3D can present unique problems. ‘The values of any layer of data need to be greater than the values of the layer in front of it, otherwise data will obscure or mask data, just a8 a- mountain will obscure or mask a valley immediately behind it, Data do not always behave in such tidy ways, so edit 3-D graphs with even greater care than you would 2-D graphs. It is often necessary to express negative values, and the variation or deviation bar graph (figure 6.8) can help you do that. Juggernaut Manufacturing Net profit/loss ($ milion) 60 40) 20 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 Figure 6.8: Variation/deviation bar graph ‘The origin (zero) shifts upwards from its traditional place in the lower left- hand corner to a point where the full vertical range of positive and negative values can be displayed. GRAPHIC COMMUNICATION AND CLARITY. 45, Line graphs tine graphs are most useful for showing trends and compari Simple line graphs Multiple line graphs 46 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH ns in large amounts of continuous data, As such, they are more useful than bar graphs for showing subtle and frequent changes, although complete accuracy with data can only be guaranteed by using tables, A simple line graph shows one set of data (figure 6,9). Gizmos are in decline 5000: 4000] —~a__ 3500: 2000: 2500: 2000: 1500: 1000: Units sold 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 "Gizmos Figure 6.9: Simple line graph As with most bar graphs, time is plotted on the horizontal (0) axis, and other values are plotted on the vertical (y) axis. Multiple line graphs show more than one set of data (figure 6.10). Gizmos are in decline 4000: 3000" 2000" Units sold 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 "Gizmos = Whatsits = Dooverlackies _ » Thingummybobs Figure 6.10: Multiple line graph Multiple line graphs can get cluttered quickly, so try to avoid plotting more than four sets of data on the one graph. ‘Area graphs Area graphs (Figure 6.11) are similar to line graphs. Combination graphs Gizmos are in decline Units sold 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 = Gizmos = Whatsits = Dooverlackies = Thingummybobs Figure 6.11: Area graph Notice, however, that the values have been stacked vertically: while the data depicted in figure 6.11 are the same as those depicted in figure 6.10, the scale of the y (vertical) axis has changed. Area graphs (also known as band graphs) are dramatic, and can quickly reveal comparative and overall trends. AS with stacked bar graphs, however, it is not casy to read off values apart from the ‘one on the bottom of the stack. This becomes a real problem when falling trends in upper areas or bands or layers are masked or distorted by rising trends in lower areas or bands or layers. Sometimes it is necessary to plot two sets of data, with each data set referring, to a different type of variable. In this case, it becomes necessary to use the righthand y axis or y2 axis. While it is quite possible to plot these different sets of data using the one type of visual — a multiple line chart, for example = this can lead to confusion. A combination graph (figure 6.12) can remove confusion, and it can make comparisons much clearer. Such a graph also gives us a way of plotting different types of data (for example, continuous and discrete) on the one visual. Gizmo sales feel the heat _ s000 af 100 oe 8B sooo ss 2 2 S 2000: 10 & 1000 5 ; ° 1993 1994 1995, 1996 1997 ° 2 “5 woroge nual Un old torpor Fombination graph GRAPHIC COMMUNICATION AND CLARITY «7 Pictograms Pictogeams are symbols used to convey quantities. For example, numbers of passengers carried on an airline might be shown by figure 6.13, while changes in oil consumption occurring over a period of time might be shown by figure 6.14¢a) (barrels shown in two dimensions) or figure 6.14(b) (barrels shown in three dimensions). Figure 6.13: Passengers carried by Acrophobia Airines 40 40 20 litres 20 titres lies hires 197 1997 1977 1997 Figure 6.14(a) and (b): Daily oil consumption per head in Greedonia, 1977 and 1997 Pictograms are attractive, and are able to capture the imagination of the viewer. They are not very accurate, however. With each aeroplane repre~ senting 10000 passengers, for example, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to read off the final partial pictogram for 1996 as meaning 5341 passengers. 48 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH Tables Pictogeams can also be misleading, as well as inaccurate, In both figures 6.14€@) and (b), for example, the pictogram for 1997 is constructed by simply doubling the height of the pictogram for 1977. This is not valid, however: in figure 6.14(@) the two-dimensional 1997 barrel is twice as big in height as the 1977 one, but it is also four times as big in area; in figure 6.14¢b), the three- dimensional barrel is twice as big in height as the 1977 one, but it is eight times the volume. Lables are displays of data, with numbers arranged in rows and columns, Most statistical information is presented in tabular form, as are data displayed in spreadsheet and database software. Tables are excellent when you need to display preci will always be more accurate than graphs. Table 6.2 is the database (albeit nonsensical) that has been used to construct figures 6.4, 6.5, 6.7 and 6,9-12. Most graphs are based upon tables, but very few tables are based upon graphs. Table 6.2: Sales of four main product lines at Juggernaut Manufacturing Gizmos | whatsits | Dooverlackies | Thingummybobs 1993 4954 2951 1297 805 1998 3965 2653 1045 205 1995 3654 3086 1234 1342 1996 3054 2654 1032 1287 1997 4562 2873 764 895 1998 4992 2238 1256 567 1999 3452 2345 1431 487 2000 2at2 2658 2563 314 2001 1462, 2865 2010 768 (Source: Juggernaut Manufacturing) ‘Trends and comparisons are not always immediately obvious in tables, how- ever. The eye of the viewer has to do a lot more work to extract trends and ‘comparisons, and even then, may miss important developments, ‘The ideal situation may be to use both graphs and tables. Use graphs for broad brush treatments of a topic, and back up your arguments with tables: for example, use graphs in the body of your written document, and include the tables they are based upon in an appendix to that document, so that those ‘who are interested can inspect the precise figures. Tables need to be laid out clearly, with white space allowed around the table and between rows and columns. Clarity can be enhanced by the use of lines, double fines, colour shading, and differing typefaces or fonts. GRAPHIC COMMUNICATION AND CLARITY 49 Flow charts How charts are extremely useful tools for analysing complex processes. Such Processes need not only be mechanical ones: human decision-making pro- cesses can also be mapped via flow charting. While flow charts are useful for processes where there are clear yes-no decision points, they are not so useful for processes where there is multiplicity of decisions that could be made at any one point (yes-no-perhaps-perhaps (2), perhaps [3], etc). Figure 6.15 shows flow chart showing a yes/no process, while figure 6.16 shows a more schematic, circular flow chart. Each approach is fine, depending upon the communication problem you are trying to solve. Does soi feel grit? © ‘Does it mould into ball without iris ‘crumbling? cuay Tris Does it fee sticky? ugar LOAM Tris MEDIUM LOAM fs thard Heavy LOAM, Figure 6.15: A flow chart (Source: Breckon, Jones and Moorhouse [1986: 111]. Repreduced wih permission) ‘50, WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH aga seca sani ana ‘Saas pa, aT Capt mat | Figure 6.16: A circular flow chart (ource:Breckon, Jones and Moorhouse [1986: 115]. Reproduced with permission) Diagrams Diagrams can be useful for showing dynamic processes, cutaway views of interiors of machines or organisms, the structure of organisations, and many other situations where charts, photographs or words would be inadequate, Dynamic processes, for example, can be shown in phases (figure 6.17). Induction Compression Power Exhaust inet and Exhaust valve exhaust ‘ahes Spark pigs) Exhaust aad Sheed panos. A Nave inetvave J | . ae open SN Y \ ea) y e 7 Ww w& Figure 6.17: The four-stroke cycle (Source: Breckon, Jones and Moorhouse [1986: 104], Reproduced with permission) GRAPHIC COMMUNICATION AND CLARITY. 1 SOME GUIDELINES FOR PRESENTING VISUALS ‘52, WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH 1 10. Note that graphs and diagrams are known as figures (Figure 28(a) shows >. Tables are known, unsurprisingly, as tables (‘Table 4 shows ..°) Photographs are known as plates (Plate 2 shows...) Number all visuals. If visuals are part of a report, ensure that visuals are imbered consistently with the rest of the report — for example, if a bar cchart is the third figure in the second section or chapter of your report, it will be figure 23 (or ILili., or IL(©, or whatever numeric/alphabetical/ alphanumeric system you are using) Consider listing figures, tables and plates at the front of the report, immediately after the table of contents. Label all visuals Place numbering and labelling of tables at the top of the visual. Place numbering and labelling of other visuals at the bottom of the visual Labels, headlines or captions are usually placed outside the structure of visuals, but they may be placed inside for effect. This may be more the case for visuals used in spoken presentations than for those used in written documents (see, for example, the layout of the visuals for Jugger snaut Manufacturing used in this chapter, Labels, headlines or captions may be neutral and descriptive CMarket share within the industry, 1996-1997°) or they may be interpretative and emphatic (ls this what we really want to happen?) Ensure that all components of visuals are identified. With graphs and diagrams, labels may actually be written, typed or printed onto the visual Such labels may be actually near or over the part of the visual they are ‘identifying, or connected to those parts by arrows or lines (called callouts). Alternatively, a key oF legend may be used. Such a key or legend will explain to the viewer what identifying systems of colour oF crosshatching actually mean If the visual is going to look too cluttered with labelling of components, try to use a key or legend system Ensure that units of measurement on axes are clearly labelled Ensure also that the units of measurement on an axis are uniform. Changes can fead to (unintentional oF intentional) distortion, Cite the source of your data If additional explanatory information is needed, place this in footnotes below the visual lay out visuals to ensure maximum clarity. Ensure that there is a fair amount of white space around the visual, separating it from the surrounding text of your document. With tables, use white space, lines, shading and typography or fonts to make blocks of data more digestible. With graphics, follow guidelines on colour use (see p.53) Position visuals with care. + If possible, place visuals in the middle of the page, with text above and below. If you have some skill in layout, and the visual is appropriate, position text on one side or on both sides of the visual. Be careful, though: the page may end up looking cluttered and confused. When in doubt, don't wrap text around visuals. Using colour, patterns and shading" + Ifa visual or group of visuals is large, and may break up the flow of the text, consider placement in an appendix at the back of the document + Place a visual close to the part of the text where you are discussing it Don’t compel your reader to shuffle back and forth between pages. + Refer to visuals in text. This sounds too basic to mention, but some writers are guilty of placing a visual largely for decorative effect, or of placing an effective visual but simply forgetting to mention it, Lead your reader into consideration of the visual: ‘For example, in table 6.2 11, Remember the differences between written and spoken presentation of data, + Visuals in a document can convey more detail, as the reader can spend Hatching (diagonal, time inspecting data, i., the reader is in control of the perceptual pro- cess and is physically close to the visual, With spoken presentations, the presenter is in control, and the reader/viewer is not physically close to the visual, Zelazny (1991) suggests that: {A chart used in a visual presentation must be atleast twice as simple and four times a bod as one used in a report. I's the same as the distinction between a billboard that must be read and understood in the time you drive past and a magazine advertisement that you can study i detail! + A visual suitable for a document may need to be broken up into a sequence of visuals for a spoken presentation. Thus you may need to prepare more visuals for a spoken presentation than for a written one covering the sime ground + Tables will tend to work better in documents, particulary if they are complex ones. Documents allow the writer to present combinations of graphs and tables: it is quite easy, and often quite desirable, to place different perspectives on the one issue side by side, This is less easy to do in visuals used for spoken presentations. cross, dotted or other patterns) and shading can be used in colour or black and white reproduction of visuals, but tend to be used more in black and white or where a full range of colour not available. When reproducing visuals in colour or black and white, keep in mind the following guidelines: On a pie graph, match the pattern to the size of the slice: the smallest pattern on the smallest slice, and so on. On other graphs, put the smallest or heaviest pattern next to the axis and build progressively with less dense patterns. Note that some patterns can be quite unattractive. If you differentiate between the bars in a bar graph with heavy diagonal lines travelling in dif. ferent directions, the illusion may be created that the bars are not vertical Experiment with patterns until you get a combination that achieves maximum differentiation without repelling or confusing the viewer. Colour is extremely important in communicating your message. C dramatically differentiate parts of your visual, and can also add an air of pro- fessionalism (0 your work, Colour can also entertain — a not insignificant factor in these days where people routinely consume messages from colour television, magazines and newspapers, and thus have fairly high expectations about the way in which information is packaged, GRAPHIC COMMUNICATION AND CLARITY. 53 ‘54 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH Keep colours to a minimum number. Merely because you have the capa‘ create a lot of colours does not mean that you should use a lot, As Zelazny remarks in relation to presentation graphics: I'm told that some computer graphics systems can create 8000000 permutations of colours, give or take a few thousand. That’s 7999997 more than I recommend showing on a typi slide? Keep your colours to a maximum of five per visual: if you need to use more, perhaps your visual is too complex, and needs to be broken into two or more visuals, When working with colour in print, it is often preferable to use dark text on a light background. Be aware that different colours send different messages to some people: red connotes vibrancy for some, danger for others, and insolvency for a third group. Blue by turns can connote restfulness, coldness and institutional npersonality. If you are communicating with people from outside your home culture, enquite as to what messages different colours send within that culture — you might be surprised. ‘Try to avoid red-green patterns — for example, red background and green text, Some viewers will have trouble with such combinations and may be unable to decipher the text. Finally, in preparing, visuals in colour, it is wise to sce whether the visual still makes sense in black and white. You never know what use your visual might be put to, and it may end up being photocopied or faxed. You may not approve of this, but you nevertheless still want your message to get through, despite the distortions it might be subjected to Find examples of documents (newspapet/magazine articles, reports, memos, instruction manuals, etc.) which have no visuals, but which could benef from their inclusion. What kind of visuals would be appropriate? ind examples of documents which have visuals. How effective are such visuals? It you were to redesign such documents, what changes would you make? Why? USE OF PASSIVE VOICE AND DISJUNCTS Wen ve read documents, itis usefal to know the answer to a very simple question: who is the whiter! It & not always vit t0 know the Speciictdenity ofthe individual who penned oF typed the piece but is vital that that individual, or the organisation on whose behalf the author is ‘iting, takes responsibilty for what is written. In plain English document, : this is nota problem: here, dhe process is trnsparent — we know whats fing on. Iti, however, 2 problem in documents that have been written Within the more bureaucratic organisations, and/or have been writen by individuals who most cerainly donot want to accept responsibly for what they have written, Here, the process is not transparent, but opaque: we don’t have much idea at all of what is going on, We always need to ask the owl question: Whooooo? If the answer is not obvious, then the document is flawed. ‘This lack of responsibility and accountability is particularly obvious when writers use, and misuse, grammatical concepts such as the passive voice and sentence modifiers or disjuncts. (For definitions of basic grammatical terms, see pp. 162-5.) Some grammatical buzz-words will come in handy here.A simple sentence can be understood in terms of three basic components subject verb object 1 like you ‘The verb describes the ‘The subject of the sentence is the actor in a proces action, and the object receives the action. ‘There is, however, another way of expressing the idea in the above sentence, and that is like this: subject verb prepositional phrase you (are) liked (by) me needed to define Here, the subject receives the action. A preposition (by’) the actor, and a form of the verb 0 be is needed to help the verb. The first sentence is an instance of active voice, while the second sentence is an instance of passive voice. ‘THE IRRESPONSIBLE WRITER: USE OF PASSIVE VOICE AND DISIUNCTS. 5 ‘56 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH Now consider these three sentences: 1 sent that memo yesterday. ‘That memo was sent by yesterday. ‘That memo was sent yesterday, Here, the first sentence is an example of active voice, the second sentence is an example of passive voice, while the third is an example of the imper- sonal passive. Active voice sentences are more direct, and are usually shorter. When writers use passive voice, particularly the impersonal passive, there is always the suspicion that something is being covered up, that such writers are being evasive or dishonest, With the impersonal passive, it is very difficult to say just who did what to whom or what, and thus it is equally difficult to say just who is responsible in the situation being described — particulary when something has gone wrong,”! Compare these sentences, for example: Evasive passive Direct active "The modem has been damaged. I damaged the modem. ‘Those documents have been lost. Thave lost those documents. 1 recommend a reduction in funding for this department ‘A reduction in funding for this, department is recommended. ‘We were not able to match last year’s productivity figures, It was not possible to match last year’s productivity figures. Passive voice importance: appropriate where the identity of the actor is not of vital Passive Active Supplies of photocopy toner are replenished on the second day of each calendar month, In some circumstances, it might be toner, but for many routine purposes. passive would be appropriate. The passive is also appropriate where the actor is unknown: ‘A Duplic8 copier representative replenishes our supplies of photocopy toner on the second day of each month, useful to know just who supplies the it might be unnecessary, and thus the Passive Active ‘The dinosaurs were eliminated from the face of the earth, © climinated the dinosaurs from the face of the earth, ‘The passive can be used as a tool for tactful expression, whereby sensitive points can be made without provoking conflict with or loss of face by another person: Passive Active ‘This letter needs to be more ‘You need to write this letter precisely written, more precisely. ‘The passive is also useful when the writer wishes to emphasise a certain word of group of words: Passive Active ‘The Metz account will need to ‘The accounts team will need t0 be carefully monitored (by the carefully monitor the Metz accounts team), account, Be wary of shifts in voice within the one sentence: Faulty shift Correct expression You should mail these letters ‘You should mail these letters before 5 p.m.,and the other before 5 p.m.,and proofread the letters will need to be other letters/ These letters proofread. should be mailed by 5 p.m.,and the other letters will need to be proofread. Use active voice and passive appropriately, according to the par ticular character of the passage you are writing. ‘Correct’ usage aside, you may choose to give variety to your writing by mixing active and passive voice, in the same way that variety can be given by mixtures of concrete and abstract words (sce pp.65-75) and of nominalisations and verbal structures (wp.62-4) DISJUNCTS, OR SENTENCE MODIFIERS Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. (For definitions of these terms, see pp. 162-5.) Some adverbs modify entire sentences: Naturally, Vil be there, Regrettably, she couldn't come. Such sentence modifiers are also known as disjunets. Fashions come and go in usage of the language, and some observers have noted that disjuncts are being used more often in recent years. While such observers have noted the change, they have not always noted it with pleasure, seeing in some disjuncts the same behavioural pattern of dis- honesty and evasion that is sometimes seen in the use of the passive voice. ‘THE IRRESPONSIBLE WRITER: USE OF PASSIVE VOICE AND DISJUNCTS. 57 ‘58 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH For example, controversy has arisen in recent years about disjuncts such as hopefully, arguably, interestingly, reportedly, basically, presumably, and so Let’s take hopefully modifier: ist. The traditional meaning of bopefully is as a normal She waited hopefully (Le., with hope) for them to arrive ‘The newer, more controversial usage is that of a disjunct: Hopefully (.e., it is hoped) they will arrive soon, Critics of this usage include the novelist Kingsley Amis, who argues that the person who uses the word in this way hhope’ because that would imply that he has surrendered control of events; he can't really use J. F Kennedy's favourite: ‘Tam hopeful that’, without being J F Kennedy; he can't say ‘with luck’ which is all he means; so he says “hope fully’ and basks in a fraudulent glow of confidence.”* Others believe that no psychological games are being played, and that hope- fully is as legitimate as naturally, regrettably, and so on? However, virtually all of those modifiers — thankfully, luckily, happily — usually relate to events in the past, and therefore events over which one has no control. Hopefully, in contrast, usually relates to events in the future, and therefore to events which one might be able to act on or influence. The hopefully user, however, may ‘not want to act — that may be the whole point. Hopefully here may be code for ‘hopelessly’, oF I don’t have too much hope at all — go away and don't bother me? Other commentators have noted — sometimes in a spirit of facetious humour — some negative aspects or meanings of other disjuncts: Disjunct ‘Translation/comment Commentator arguably Thaven’t done my Alex Buzo®* research presumably code word telling the Paul Dickson®* reader that the writer is about to take a wild guess reportedly, this means we have no | Paul Dickson idea if this is so, but it sounds good asically an unnecessary filler Grammatik 5.0 word grammar checker Behavioural games played with disjuncts may then be similar to behavioural games played with passive voice constructions — which, as we have seen (pp.55-7), can sometimes be wordgames signalling evasiveness and avoid: ance of responsibility, This disjunct plus passive combination can be a powerful one, but its message may not be clear until you challenge it ng documents, be careful of the ‘disappearing person’ trick: Open communication > >>>> Closed communication Stage 1 | Stage 2 | Stage 3 Stage 4 Stage 5 Ist Ist 3ri person | Impersonal | Disjunet person | person passive singular | plural Tregret_ | We regret | The company | It is regretted | Regrettably regrets Thope | We hope | The Itishoped | Hopefully government hopes ‘This is a sequence beloved of bureaucrats the world over, and one all too familiar to the hapless readers and listeners who have to deal with such bureaucrats, If you find yourself being pushed from the left to the right of the continuum in communicating with others, retaliate by asking the ‘owl question. If you find that your own style of communication is =| | \es Te more to the right rather than to the left of, | eee a the continuum, it might be wise to start considering your motives, or, if you work in an organisation, at least to start analysing the organisational culture that permits and encourages such communication, Plain English documents use language that occurs more on the left of this continuum. The usage tip with dis. juncts, then, as with passive voice, is to use them sparingly, and be alert to extra- grammatical meanings which might be eing deployed — consciously or uncon- sciously — by yourself or others. Correct any errors in the usage of active or passive voice and disjuncts in the ‘ACTIVITY following passage. You may need to re-cast sentences. Regrettably, your long-term account records appear to have been misiaid. It will turn up, hopefully in the near future. This is basically a computer error, and presum- ably will not occur in the future. Interestingly, your short-term account is overdrawn, You should pay it right away. ‘THE IRRESPONSIBLE WRITER: USE OF PASSIVE VOICE AND DISJUNCTS. 59 24 o> 60 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH YOU DON'T SAY? WHAT PEOPLE SAY ABOUT PLAIN ENGLISH To achieve plain style, writers and managers at all levels of an organisation, must agree that inflated writing is counterproductive, irresponsible, and unkind to the reader. Without a consensus on this point, simplicity stands no chance, and writers will continue to ‘express’ themselves at the reader's expense. Here are some examples of sentences expressing something or other: ‘The previous staffing requirements were adjusted to recognise that the idealised fractionalisation and time phasing of communication support skilled personnel desired by proposal managers will often not be possible, — by a mid-level professional at a Fortune 100 company ‘The undersigned has devised a narrative that delineates chronological aspects of a given environment, twice pronounced in differing configur- ns, of which one is decidedly superior (o its counterpart. — by a mid-evel professional at a federal agency A proactive position visvis the escalation of the matter of ongoing sudden outage interference with the making of longdlistance indials by customers has been taken. — by a customer service representative at a telecommunications company SOME FURTHER COMMENTS ON PLAIN ENGLISH Such a monstrous ‘style’ — cut off from the rhythms of ordinary speech and utterly alien to reason — is learned nowhere but in the workplace. No one Teams to write that way in college or graduate school. Such infected writing results from the very contagious virus known as ‘that's our style’. Must it be so? How long will we continue to pretend that such writing does anything other than waste time and money? ‘The plain truth is that as long as managers and executives tolerate bloated and pretentious language, they are tacitly encouraging it. As long as outmoded or poorly conceived formats dictate complexity, language will be complex. ‘This is bad for business: contacts are lost, customers outraged, deadlines missed, sensitive intelligence misunderstood, and time squandered. Richard Lauchman ‘Young Americans, already deemed to be the first generation to be poorer than their parents, now face more disconcerting news: they are thicker, too. ‘Thanks to a new phenomenon known as ‘dumbing down’, the language skills of children have hit a record low, says Professor Donald Hayes of Cornell University. In a research paper that has received national attention, Professor Hayes blames schoolbooks written at ‘the level at which a farmer talks to his cow: ‘The professor set out to explain why today’s teenagers score substantially below the 1950s average when tested on their command of English. He discovered that the 17-yearolds are learning from books that are as simple as those read by 13-yearolds before the Second World War. Aided by a computer scan of children's texts, Professor Hayes saw that Publishers were avoiding precise words and preferring common ‘general purpose’ words, “We've allowed texts to grow simpler’ Professor Hayes said. ‘And if you don’t push a child as hard, then you don’t broaden their knowledge base? ‘The cause of the problem is, it seems, a long-established trend in US edu cation, Teachers prefer (0 see pupils ‘succeed! than (0 challenge them, experts have suggested. The result is material ‘dumbed down’. When it comes to sport or the school band, we push our children very hard, notes Professor Hayes. “But with serious intellectual work, we don’t, I's curious? Jonathan Freedland The Guardian supporters have deskilled the population and taken language to the lowest common denominator, We can't ‘detechnicalise’ language. Jargon is a very useful thing to learn, It is imperative that students learn it, otherwise they have to explain things in such a roundabout way, Hermine Scbeeres No person shall prune, cut, carry away, pull up, dig, fell, bore, chop, saw, chip, pick, move, sever, climb, molest, take, break, defice, destroy, set fire to, burn, scorch, carve, paint, mark, or in any manner interfere with, tamper, mutilate, misuse, disturb or damage any tree, shrub, plant, grass, flower, or part thereof, nor shall any person permit any chemical, whether solid, fluid, or gascous, to seep, drip, drain or be emptied, sprayed, dusted or injected upon, about or into any tree, shrub, plant, grass, flower, or part thereof, except when specifically authorised by competent authority; nor shall any person build fires, or station or use any tar kettle, heater, road roller or other engine within an area covered by this part in such a manner that the vapor, fumes, or heat therefrom may injure any tree or other vegetation. US National Park Service regulation, (preplain English treatment Do not harm the plants. The same regulation, in revised form. ‘The purpose of business writing is to inform or persuade, not to mystify. Bu ness writing isn't experimental fiction, and writers who take liberties with standard spelling, grammar, and punctuation not only impose an undue burden on the reader but risk being judged as incompetent, In the competi tive environment, credibility is a priceless commodity; when customers encounter sloppy writing, their reaction is swift and severe, You would cer- tainly (and understandably) hesitate to award a contract to any company whose proposal was infested with errors in basic English, The subtextual message of sloppiness is inferred by all: the writer is negligent and inattentive Gt best), of ignorant and unable (@t worst). Such a response may not be noble, but it is swift and sure. Richard Lauchman Why do lawyers write so that no-one can understand them? They say it is because they need to be precise, and that their language has been honed by centuries of litigation. But this is baloney. The real reason is that, although they are paid for their skill with words, most lawyers are dull and clumsy writers who have not broken the bad habits they learnt as students, Clarity UK lawyers’ group ‘THE IRRESPONSGLE WRITER: USE OF PASSIVE VOICE AND DISJUNCTS. 61 NOMINALISATIONS, ABSTRACTIONS, CIRCUMLOCUTIONS AND REIFICATION : Phin mngish is clear and direct. 1s communication berween one human being and another. We have seen how writing can send unclear and evasive . messages when passive voice and disjuncts are misused (pp.55-9). Let's now . see how other types of distortion can enter into the writing process, pro- : ducing writing that is remote, impersonal, alienating, and at times almost : impossible to understand. In this chapter, we will consider four ineffective styles of writing — nominalisation, abstraction, circumlocution and reification. Note that the question of personal versus impersonal style or tone is considered later (p. 123). NOMINALISATIONS 662 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH Consider these two sentence ‘We undertook a comparison of photocopiers. We compared photocopiers. Both sentences mean the same thing, but the first is six words lon second is only three words long, Notice how the noun comparison in the first sentence is easily converted to the verb compare in the second sentence, while the verb undertake, the indefinite article an and the preposition of are dropped completely in the move from the first sentence to the second sentence.** Nouns which are formed from verbs are called nominalisations, or embedded or buried verbs. While they have their place, excessive use of them can clog up your prose, and also make it more abstract and k (p.65). Nominalisations often occur in passive constructions (pp.5: Examples of typical nominalisations, and alternative verbal expressions, are given in table 8.1 Table 8.1: Nominalisations and alternatives Nominalisation (embedded or buried verb) Verbal form arrive at a conclusion conclude arrive at a decision decide a fax was used in the transmission of | a fax was used to transmit the message the message Nominalisation (embedded or buried verb) Verbal form bring to a conclusion conclude, finish come to the conclusion that conclude conduct an interview with Interview (verb) conduct an investigation into investigate delivered these recommendations recommended develop a critique of fiticise draw the conclusion conclude draw the inference inferred enter into negotiations on/uponiover —_| negotiate enter into an agreement agree enter into deliberations over/upon deliberate overlupon enter into discussions concerning discuss extend an invitation to invite give a demonstration of demonstrate give an explanation of explain give assurances that assure that give consideration to ‘consider, think about dive an undertaking to undertake dive encouragement to encourage ive endorsement to endorse ive indications that indicate that give permission toltor permit (verb) grant authorisation for authorise grant an extension for the deadline extend the deadline have a conversation with converse/talk with havellodge an objection object (verb) (continued) THE REMOTE WAITER 68 64 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH ble 8.1 (continued) Nominalisation (embedded or buried verb) ‘Verbal form ‘am in compliance with comply with ‘make some calculations calculate make/take a decision decide reach an agreementunderstanding | agree make the remark that remark that ‘make allegations concerning allege make an adjustment to adjust ‘make an assessment of assess ‘make an examination of examine make/lormulate a response to respond to my belief is that | believe that perform an appraisal appraise perform an aucit aust (verb) perform an operation operate provide documentation concerning | document (verb) provide justitication for justily provide an undertaking that undertake to provide with an introduction introduce putin jeopardy Jeopardisertisk put in an appearance appear show a preference for prefer take into consideration consider tender my resignation Hresign Undertake an inspection of inspect Undertake a studylanalysis of study/analyse ‘Your writing can be more clear and forceful, and responsibilities for specific actions can be more apparent, if you minimise your use of nominalisations, “VERBINGS’ Just as verbs can be tured into nouns, so too can nouns be turned into verbs. We take for granted verbs such as felepbone, film, and. itemise, but there was a time when these words did not exist; and when the verbs were coined, there almost certainly would have been some opposition to them on the grounds that the coinages were clumsy, unnecessary or barbaric jargon, or all three, This process has been called ‘verbing’?” but such is the contro- versy surrounding the process that it seems unlikely that the word will ever lose its quotation marks (cuing the reader to the fact that it is an unusual usage). Some ‘verbings’ that are in use today — but which by no means are universally liked — are shown in table 8.2 Table 8.2: ‘Verbings’in current use diarise Please diarise that appointment. action ‘This needs to be actioned right away. agenda Please agenda that item for Tuesday’s meeting, Input Input those figures, and see what total you get. prioritise I you want funding for this, you'l have to prioritise it ‘above your other requests. fax Faxit to me, wil you? impact How will hat impact our budget? courier 1 courierit over to you today. back-burner Weld better back-burner this one until administration calms down: ‘To many people's ears, these sound like horrific jargon, and as such should be strenuously avoided. Other people are quite comfortable with some, or all, of them, Again, it all comes down to audience: determine what is acceptable to your audience, and act accordingly. This, of course, is easier said than done. Language change is a slow and conservative process, and thus if you hhave fears that your audience may regard a ‘verbing’ as barbaric, then don't use it ABSTRACTIONS ‘The effect of inappropriate use of passive voice, and of nominalisations and perhaps of ‘verbings’, is to make your prose less immediate and understand- able, Writers need to be very careful that their writing does not become too abstract, so that the audience has difficulty in grasping just what it is that is being communicated. It’s useful to think of abstraction or generality as a ladder oF hierarchy. In figure 8.1, for example, we see such a ladder. The most abstract terms are at the top, and as we proceed down the ladder or hierarchy, the terms become progressively more concrete, or closer to specific human experience, THE REMOTE WAITER 65 Abstract, Information science YN software hardware LLIN hand-held — laptop micro mini mainframe /\ Apple = PC Amiga /\ clone BM ay | Pentium Pro \ Pontum 486 986 a a oN Antony's Mary's Joe's (830 MB hard (1 GBhard (400 MB hard Concrete disk, external disk) disk, CD ROM) disk drive) Figure 8.1: A hierarchy or ladder of abstraction Consider these two sentences: Organisational information Brian Marsden of the Facilities science resources will need to Department is going to take be rationalised, Mary's PC out of room 312 this afternoon at 3 o'clock, and she and Antony and Joe will have to share the remaining two machines. ‘The sentence on the right is longer than the one on the left, but its language is quite concrete and specific, and the message it communicates is quite clear. The sentence on the left, by contrast, is so abstract as to be virtually meaningless Abstractitis™ is a disease which afflicts much prose, and you should be wary Of it, Abstract writing cannot only confuse, but also mislead: in many circum- stances, the further up the ladder of abstraction a word is, the less chance it has of meaning to the reader just what it did to the writer.” 66. WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH In your writing, strive to el weight to concrete expressions: (nate inappropriate abstraction, and give more Abstract Concrete Make careful adjustments to the document using the Convert the text t0 two columns, change the font to 12 point Arial, and ensure that headings are in bold capitals with Arabic numbers Photocopiers should have appropriate performance parameters Photocopiers should be able to produce fifty stapled copies of twenty doublesided sheets in under three minutes, Does this mean that abstract expressions are always wrong? Not at all ‘There are occasions when abstract or general statements are precisely what is needed — for example, when giving an overview of a situation, in formulating a general rule, or in reaching a conclusion. Writing which is untlinchingly con- crete in approach may cause both writer and reader to become bogged down in details, with no chance offered to organise such details in meaningful wholes, Good style means striking a balance between the conerete and the abstract. Some writers find it useful to make abstract or general statements, and then proceed to more concrete matters by’ + rephrasing Cin other words...) + giving examples + using analogies or metaphors + using colloquialisms or slang, where appropriate. Abstraction is often created by the cumulative effect of certain words, Such words are often of Latin rather than Anglo-Saxon origin (See pp. 153-4), and are favoured by writers in private and public sector organisations which have a bureaucratic culture. This is language with its ‘official hat on, Readers tend to interpret messages written in such language as hostile, impersonal, control ling and alienating. Avoid the more abstract terms in table 8.3, and give prefer cence to the plain English alternatives. Table 8.3: Abstract expressions and plain English alternatives"? Abstract expression Plain English ‘alternatives’ accentuate sttess accommodation where you live, home accordingly inline with this, 90 acerue add, gain accustomed to used to (continued) THEREMOTEWRITER 67 668 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH ble 8.3 (continued) Abstract expression Plain English ‘alternatives’ ‘acknowledge thank you for acquaint inform, tell acquiesce agree adjustment change, alteration ad valorem by value advantageous useful, helpful address (verb — to consider) tackle, deal with, consider, look at advice Information, instructions advise inform, tell atx add, write, fasten, stick on, attach to aforesaid this, earlier in this document aggregate (noun and verb) total alleviate ease, reduce allocate divide, share, add, give ‘amendment change anticipate expect applicant (the) you apprise inform, tell approximately about, roughly ascertain find out as regards ‘about, on the subject of assistance help attend come fo, go to, be there beneficial helpful, useful bestow give, award caloulate work out, decide capability ability, can category group caveat warning cease finish, stop, end claimant you, the person claiming Abstract expression Plain English ‘alternatives’ clarification ‘explanation, help ccognisant of, ‘aware of, know about commence start, begin ‘communicate talk, writ, telephone (be specific) comply with keep to, meet component part (itis) compulsory (you) must concerning about, on concur agree consecutive inarow consequently 0 constitutes makes up, forms, is construe interpret consult talk to, see, meet, ask about contrary to against, despite, diferent convenient sultable correspond write corroboration ‘evidence, proof, support covenants ‘agreements, contracts, currently ‘now (or delete) deduct take off, take away defer put off, delay ‘demonstrate show, prove denote show dependent someone you support depict show designate point out, show, name despatch send determine decide, work out, set, end detrimental harmful, damaging diminish lessen, reduce (continued) THEREMOTEWRITER 69 170 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH ble 8.3 (continued) Abstract expression Plain English ‘alternatives’ disburse pay discharge (verb) pay off, settle disconnect cutoff, unplug discontinue stop, end disseminate spread Gistinguish show, point out documentation papers, documents domicile home duration time, life welling home echelons levels eligible allowed, qualified elect (verb) choose oligibie allowed, can get, have the right to get eliminate cut, drop, end ‘emanate from ‘come from, stem from ‘emoluments earings, money emphasise stress employment job, work empower allow, let enable allow enclosed inside, with encounter meet endeavour try, attempt ensure make sure ‘entitlement ‘ight, what you have the right to get envisage expect, imagine equivalent equal, the same erroneous wrong establish set up, ereate, form evaluate test, check, seta price for Abstract expression Plain English ‘alternatives’ eventuate result, occur, happen evince show, display excessive too many, too much exclude leave out, prevent ‘exempt from free from ex officio ‘because of his or her position expedite hasten, speed up expenditure spending extant current, in force facitate help factor reason failure to if you do not feasible ‘can be done forfeit tive up, lose formulate plan, devise forthwith ‘now, at once forward (verb) send furnish ‘ive, provide further 10 atte, following gratuity tip henceforth from now on hereby ‘now, by this (or delete) herein here (or delete) hereunder below herewith with this (or delete) hitherto until now identical same immediately at once, now impact (verb) affect, change, hit implement carry out, do) incapacitated unable to work (continued) THEREMOTEWAITER 71 72 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH ble 8.3 (continued) Abstract expression Plain English ‘alternatives’ inception start, Beginning increment step, increase incorporating which includes incurred have to pay, owe indicate show infirmity lines inform tell intiate begin, start institute (verb) begin, start irrespective of despite, even i issue (verb) sive, send jeopardise tisk, threaten juncture point, situation locality place, area magnitude size marginal ‘smal, sight merchandise goods methodology ‘method minimise decrease, lessen, reduce mislay lose monies ‘money, amounts of money monitor check, watch moreover and, also, as well necessitate need, have to, require nevertheless but, however, even 50 notity tall, let us know ‘notwithstanding ‘even if, despite, stil, yet, but numerous many objective goal obligate bid, compel observe 800, adhere to, obey Abstract expression Plain English ‘alternatives’ obtain get ‘on numerous occasions often (on receipt when we (you) get operate work, run option choice optimum best, greatest, most other than except outstanding unpaid parameters limits, guidelines participate join in, take part particulars deta, facts per annum ayear Permissible allowed personnel people, staff peruse read carefully, look at Portion part Potable drinkable predominant main’ premises places, property principal ‘main prioritise rank prior to before procedures rules, ways proceed go ahead procure get profession job prohibit ban, stop projected estimated promptly uickly, at once: promulgate advertise prosecuted taken to court (continued) THE REMOTE WAITER 73 774 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH ble 8.3 (continued) Abstract expression Plain English ‘alternatives’ provided (that) if, as long as provisional for the moment, for the time being provisions (of a law, policy) the law, the policy proximity close, closeness, near purchase buy urport (verb) pretend, claim, profess pursuant (to) under, because of quote say, give re about recapitulate sum up reduce cut reflect, show, say regarding ‘about, on regulation rule reimburse pay, pay back reiterate repeat, restate relocate move remittance payment remuneration pay, wages, salary represents, shows, stands for reside live restriction, limit retain keep review look at (again) said/suchisame the, this, that save (preposition, conjunction) except scrutinise ead, (look at) carefully settlement payment shall (uture action) will shall (legal obligation) must shortfall shortage Abstract expression Plain English ‘alternatives’ signature sign here solely only statutory legal, by law submit send, give subsequently later stipulate state, set, lay down ‘supplementary extra, more terminate end, stop thereafter then, afterwards thus: 0, therefore transpire happen, occur undersigned we undertake agree, promise, do utilise use validate ‘confirm verbatim word for word, exact verity check, prove viable practical, workable virtually ‘almost (or delete) vocation job voluntary by choice warrant call for whatsoever whatever, what, any whensoever when whereas since, because whereby by which, because of which whether i whilst while wilfully deliberately witnessed saw zone area, region THE REMOTE WAITER 75 CIRCUMLOCUTION 76 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH Related to the sin of ‘abstracttis is the sin of circumlocution, ‘Circumlocution’ literally means talking in circles. In communication, a straight line is preferable to a circle: possible t0 say something in fewer words rather than more words, without distorting your message, use fewer words. Note that some circumlocutions also use some nominalisations (pp.62-4). Table 8.4: Circumlocutions, and preferable alternatives" Minimise using Prefer using... absence of, an ‘ro, none. according to our records our records show accede to allow, agree acknowledge receipt of thank you for afford an opportunity to allow a great deal of ‘much a greater length of time longer a high degree of ‘much a large majority of most a large number of many a number of several a proportion of some are found to be in agreement agree a small number of few a sufficient number of ‘enough accounted for by the fact that because according to our records our records show acquaint yourself with find out about, read about afford an opportunity let alter this has been done then aimed at for are of the same opinion agree as a resul/consequence of because as of the date of from a sufficient number of enough Minimise using ... Prefer using ... at a faster rato faster, more quickly at a later date later at a rapid rate rapidly at an early date soon at its discretion an, may at that point in time then attached herewith is here is at the present momenviat this point in| now attributable to due to, because of be that as it may nevertheless because of the fact that because be responsible for handle by means of by, with by provisions of the Act the Act says that by the same token similarly capacity in which you are employed | your job check on check ‘comply with follow count up count cylindrical in appearance oylindrical dark blue in colour dark blue based on the fact that because bring to a conclusion finish by and large in general costs the sum of costs deem to be treat as deliberately chosen chosen described hereon shown despite the fact that although due to the fact that because during the month of October in October (continued) THEREMOTEWRITER 77 78 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH ble 8.4 (continued) Minimise using Prefer using ... during which timeythe time that while enclosed, please find I enciose equivalent as far as acceptability is | equally acceptable concerned establish the location of find exempt from free from for the purpose of for following particulars these detail for a period of for for the purpose of to, for for the reason that because fully cognisant ofthe fact that aware that gainful employment paid work given the fact that because (9088 under the name of is called has an ability to can has proved itself to be is have a responsibilty to must have been shown to be are have the requirement for need if and when if, when (but not both) if conditions are euch that if if itis assumed that if if this is not the case it not if this is the case it's. if space is insufficient if there is not enough room if you knowingly give false information If you give information that you know is false myself would hope hope inasmuch as since, because in accordance with inline with in addition to and, as well, as, also Minimise using ... Prefer using ... ina number of cases ‘some (or say how many) in all other cases otherwise ina timely manner on time, promptly in between between in case of if in conjunction with and, with in connection with about, concerning in consideration of the fact that because incumbent, upon you you must incurred expense had to spend money in excess of ‘more than in isolation alone in lieu of instead of In light of the fact that because in most cases usually in order tolthat to in point of fact, in fact in receipt of have received In regard to about, on in relation to about in respect of ‘about in settlement of to pay for in spite of the fact that although Interface with deal with, meet in terms of i) in the absence of without in the amount of for in the context of within, besides, along with in the course of during in the eventieventuality of if, when in the nature of like (continued) THEREMOTEWRITER 79 20 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH ble 8.4 (continued) Minimise using Prefer using... in the near future soon] in the neighbourhood of about, around in the present communication here; in this paper/reporvete. in the process of reviewing reviewing in the vicinity of near in this day and age now in view of the fact that because in view of the foregoing circumstances! | therefore following interestinglyit is of interest to note that_| (omit) ltrespective of whether or not, even if is in accordance with agrees with, follows is of the opinion thinks is notin a position to cannot itis apparent therefore that hhence, thus it may well be that perhaps it would appear that apparentiy (a) large number of ‘many, most (or say how many) later on) later liable to, you are you have to liaise with ‘coordinate, talk with limited number few loud and clear ‘emphatically make an attempt to ty (itis) mandatory (you) must most of the time usually necessitate, it may we (or you) may have to ‘ot infrequently ‘ot later than often by ‘not less than (twenty) at least (twenty) ‘not more than (twenty) (twenty) or less, (twenty) or fewer notwithstanding the fact that although Minimise using ... Prefer using ... (is) obigatory (you) must ‘occasioned by caused by of a reversible nature reversible on a regular basis regularly (on account ofthe fact that as (on behaif of for ‘on numerous occasions often (on the grounds that because ‘on two separate occasions twice ‘over a period of the order of a decade | ten years owing to the fact that because pertaining to about place of residence where you live, home point in time point, time provided that if, as long as, prior to the start of before, preceding quote this reference number ‘ive this reference number readily apparent ‘obvious referred to as called reported to the effect that reported that ‘source of liveinood what you live on spell out in depth explain streamlined in appearance streamlined subsequent to after taken into consideration considered that being the case itso the law provides that the law says the question as fo whether whether the treatment having been performed | ater treatment there can be no doubt that undoubtedly, doubtlessly through the medium of by (continued) THEREMOTEWAITER at REIFICATION 82 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH ble 8.4 (continued) Minimise using Prefer using ... to say nothing of and to the extent that 1, when try out ty until such time as until utilise use very necessary necessary which goes under the name of called with @ view to to with effect from from with regardireference to about with the exception of except with the minimum of delay uickty (or say when) with the result that 80 you are requested to please your attention is drawn please see, please note your enquiry will be dealt with we will reply Circumlocutions are used by some people because they believe that such roundabout expressions are more impressive, more professional. Unfortunately, the opposite impression is often created. Circumlocutions are also used by lazy people, pompous people, and people who prefer padding and watlle to thought. We all use them, of course, particularly in spoken, as distinct from written, language; they allow us to play for time, so that we can work out just what it is we want to say in the rest of the sentence we are uttering, We should, however, use less of them, rather than more of them — particularly in ‘written language. Reification means to treat an abstract thing as if it had existence. Reification usually occurs when writers and speakers attribute human characteristics to inhuman things, such as computers and organisations’ ‘The computer seems to think that you haven't paid it yet ‘The computer argues that it will win, ‘The figures argue that the seasonal variation is mi ‘The system has rejected your loan application, ‘The report argues that bankruptcy will follow. ‘The course development process will identify appropriate support material As with most of the ‘sins’ we are considering in Writing in Plain English, there is nothing wrong with reification if it is used occasionally. It is simply part of acceptable, idiomatic writing to occasionally attribute thoughts and feelings to entities who don't think and feel."® imal. Problems arise when writers (and speakers) overuse reification, either by itself or in combination with other writing faults. When this happens, the writer creates an impression of impersonality: people don’t seem to exist, and inanimate objects become animated, This is bizarre and disturbing, As with use of the impersonal passive voice and disjuncts (see pp.55-9), when we hear and see reification in excess we should ask the owl question: Whooo000? “Who is doing this?” In other words, ‘Who are the living human beings who created the hardware, software, systems, reports and other structures involved, and why are those human beings hiding? 1. Rewrite the following letter, removing any abstractions. You may need to recast sentences. 14 dune 1996 Ms Felicity Harris, 3a Anson Way, Sodor 3212 Dear Ms Harris: Tam communicating with you to advise you that the Council cannot accede to any further extensions of time on payment of the amount, outstanding on your electricity bill ($198.28). Please endeavour to ensure that your remittance, affixed to the aforementioned invoice, is despatched forthwith. Failure to comply with payment of the said invoios may nevessitate our having to disconnect supply, as stipulated in the official regulations. Notwithstanding the statutory provisions regarding disconnection, this office will endeavour to render assistance, if genuine hardship Js involved. If you are able to furnish us with particulars of the said condition, the undersigned will undertake to review the situation, Yours snoenely (phn Staines ‘Team leader, Customer Relations THE REMOTE WAITER @3 (24 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH 2. Rewrite the following letter, removing any circumlocutions. You may need to recast sentences. PIX GABLE TV INTERACTIVE SERVICES 142 Poe Street, Freedonia $011 ‘Telephone 635.643.5400 Fax 624140.6391 F-mall free@ dux.comau. 18 September 1996 Mr Pat Atoh, 44 Basildon Drive, ‘Trenton 2176 Dear Mr Atoh: ‘Your attention 1s drawn to the fact that, according to our records, your PIX Economy Account has not been paid for two months. It would appear that you are fully cognisant of the fact that the account is overdue at this point in time, inasmuch as a PIX phone representative spoke to you in connection with it on 12 September. If you acquaint yourself with the contractual details reprinted on the ‘back of your bill, you will see thet it is mandatory that all payments be made within fourteen days of their due date. In view of the foregoing circumstances, I myself would hope that you will attend to this matter with a minimum of delay. During the month of October, we will be introducing a new channel, ‘which goes under the name of the Adrenalin Channel. This will feature, on a regular basis, a large number of high risk sports and activities, deliberately chosen from the best around the world. Despite the fact that there have been some minor problems with your payment record, I am in a position to offer you three months’ free membership of the Adrenalin Channel if and when you pay your ‘Boonomy account within seven days. Yours sinoereiy, Sophia Rydon Sophia Rydon, Subscription Coordinator CONFUSING AND AMBIGUOUS EXPRESSIONS ‘The simplicity of plain English documents does not come only from shorter and more commonplace sentences and words. As we will see in dealing with areas such as jargon (p.112) and punctuation (pp. 130-49), we need to pay Close attention {0 meanings, to ensure that our readers get the message we intended to send. . In this chapter, we will look more closely at meanings, particularly those ‘meanings that depend upon the placement of words in sentences, PRONOUN REFERENCE Consider these sentences: Jack | talked | to Mary. annoyed | her, We use pronouns to stand in the place of nouns, mainly to add variety to our ‘expression, but also in direct address to others. When a pronoun stands in for noun, we refer to the noun as the antecedent of the pronoun, Thus, the ante- cedents of He and her in our second sentence are Jack and Mary, respectively. Ambiguity problems arise when antecedents are not clear. For example, this, ‘often occurs when the verbs said or fold are involved: Jack said to Jim that he was needed urgently at head office, The problem can be solved in a number of ways: Strategy Wordings Restate the | Jack said to Jim that Jim was needed urgently at head sentence office Jack suid to Jim that Jack was needed urgently at head office. Place the Jack said that he Gim) was needed urgently at head office antecedent in parentheses that he Gack) was ceded urgently at head Use direct Jack said to Jim,'T am needed urgently at head office? speech Jack said to Jim, "You are needed urgently at head office: ‘THE AMBIGUOUS WATER: CONFUSING AND AMBIGUOUS EXPRESSIONS 65 ‘The parenthesis solution is clumsy, and should be avoided wherever possible, Restatement of the antecedent or using direct speech are more acceptable solutions. Problems also arise with pronouns such as if, which, this ot that. To avoid ambiguity, such pronouns should be placed closer to their antecedents, or the antecedents should be restated: Ambiguous expressions Clearer expressions Celia placed the computer in the service Celia placed the computer which had a virus in room which had a virus. the service room./The computer which had a virus was placed in the service room by Celia. ‘The manager wrote a memo as well as a ‘The manager wrote a memo as well as a reference yesterday afternoon, but haven't | reference yesterday afternoon, but I haven't seen it, seen such a reference/memo. She found the letter inside the report that | In the report, she found the letter that her her brother had been writing, brother had been writing /She found the letter MISPLACED MODIFIERS 86. WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH that her brother had been writing in the report,/She found the letter. It was inside the report that her brother had been writing. /ln the report that her brother had been writing, she found the letter/She found the letter in the report that her brother had been writing /She found the letter that her brother had been writing, It was inside the report Modifiers are words that modify the meanings of other words. They are usually adverbs or adjectives. Such modifiers operate as single words, or as groups of words such as phrases or clauses (see pp. 162-5), ‘The black | dos ran quickly, definite article | adjective verb adverb Here, the noun dog is modified by the adjective black, That is, the adjective tells us which dog. The verb ran is modified by the adverh quickly. That is, the adverb tells us how the dog ran. Limiting modifiers (onty, scarcely, just, hardly, almost, even) need to be positioned carefully. Consider, for example, the variations in meaning in the following sentences by changing the position of the word only Only Tran down the corridor 1 only ran down the corridor. 1 ran only down the corridor. Tran down the only corridor. Tran down the corridor onty. Careful placement is needed also with modifiers such as other and another: Ambiguous sentences Clearer sentences She was talking to another man near the steps. She was talking to a man near the steps./She was talking to another person near the steps. We will need to set up negotiations with management personnel and with other union representatives, ‘We will need to set up ncgotiations with management personnel and with union representatives, Ambiguity can also occur when adjectives are placed so as to modify more than one word. A sentence like the following is clear enough: The teacher talked to the happy boys and girls ‘Commonsense and context suggest that both boys and girls are happy here. If the situation was otherwise, we would need to assign a separate modifier or example, unbappy) to girls. Confusion can arise, however, when it is not clear just what is being modified: Ambiguous sentences Ambiguity Clearer sentences Quict guitars and drums are prominent on this song. Are the drums quict, or not? Drums and quict guitars are prominent on this song./ Quiet guitars and pounding drums are prominent on this song, All her memories were of happy times and funerals Are the funerals happy experiences, or not? All her memories were of funerals and happy times,/ All her memories were of happy times and sad funerals, ‘Staff members who had been hired unofficially complained to the union. Were they hired unofficially, or did they complain unofficially? Staff members who had been unofficially hired complained to the union/ Staff members who had been hired complained unofficially to the union/ Staff members who had been hired made an unofficial complaint to the union. This policy covers serious damage oF loss. Does it cover serious loss, or not? ‘THE AMBIGUOUS WAITER: ‘This policy covers loss or serious damage./This policy covers serious damage or serious loss. CONFUSING AND AMBIGUOUS EXPRESSIONS @7 NOUN STACKS (88 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH Ambiguity can also arise when nouns are used as modifiers, or at least appear to be modifiers. Consider these word groups: ‘emergency pilot orientation program minister automobile transport certificates How many meanings can you get out of these stacks? Unfortunately, quite a few. A stack’ can mean a pile or sequence, but it also is a colloquialism for ‘collision, and a collision of meanings is what we have here. Noun stacks are beloved of bureaucracies, but they should be avoided because of the ambiguity they create. Strategies for avoiding them appear below. Ambiguity reduction strategy Examples Change noun to adjective ‘Change noun to possessive case sterial automobile transport certificates ‘emergency pilots’ orientation program ‘Change noun to a modifying phrase Rewrite sentence program in emergency pilot orientation A program for orientating emergency pilots ‘An emergency program for orientating pilots Certificates for transport vehicles carrying ministerial automobiles Certificates for transporting ministerial automobiles AMBIGUOUS GROUPS OF WORDS If placed incorrectly in sentences, groups of words can also cause modifier problems. Ambiguous sentences Ambiguity Clearer sentences ‘The woman tickled the baby | Was the baby wearing ‘The woman with the ‘wearing crimson lipstick, lipstick? crimson lipstick tickled the baby. We are committed to Is there a law against We are committed to eliminating all traces of ‘women? eliminating all traces of discrimination in the law discrimination against against women, women in the law. Climbing up the ladder, the | Was the fire climbing up the | As I climbed up the ladder, ladder? the fire now became visible /The fire became visible as I climbed up the ladder. ‘The camels were located ‘Are the camels flying the The camels were located by using helicopters. helicopters? keepers using helicopters. ‘The rocket was launched, When did we drink ‘The rocket was launched and then we all celebrated ‘champagne? when the fuse was lit, and with champagne when the then we all celebrated with fuse was lit champagne. AMBIGUOUS CONJUNCTIONS, Conjunetions such as and and or can often cause confusion, Here are some examples ‘Treasury and Finance or Foreign Affi Who are the sponsors? They might be [Sponsor one: Treasury | or [Sponsor two: Finance of Foreign Affairs But they might also be: ‘Sponsor one: Treasury and Finance | or [Sponsor two: Foreign Affairs It’s just not clear. Spell out just what options you are giving your reader. Consider also this sentence: You will need compasses, theodolites, oscilloscopes and laptop computers that can tolerate high temperatures, Which of these things do and do not need to tolerate high tempera. tures? Re-casting the sentence may clarify its meaning You will need laptop computers (which will need to be able to tolerate high temperatures), compasses, theodolites and oscilloscopes. Another solution is to break the sentence into two: ‘You will need compasses, theodolites, oscilloscopes and laptop com- puters. All of these items of equipment will need to be able to tolerate high temperatures, will sponsor the conference. ‘THE AMBIGUOUS WATER: CONFUSING AND AMBIGUOUS EXPRESSIONS 69 Another approach to such sentences is to turn them into lists: ‘You will need You will need 1, Compasses Compasses 2. Theodolites 2. Theodolites 3. Oscilloscopes and 4, Laptop computers that can tolerate high temperatures. SEMANTIC AMBIGUITY Ambiguity can also arise from the use of certain words in certain contexts 3. Oscilloscopes 4, Laptop computers that can tolerate high temperatures. Ambiguous sentences Source of ambiguity Clearer sentences ‘This form needs to be filed with us biennially, Is that twice a year, or every wo years? (In fact, the actual meaning is every two years.) This form needs to be filed with us every two years./ This form needs to be filed with us every six months. ‘We will not sanetion her conduct, Does sanction here mean endorse or penalise? We will not endorse her conduct /We will not penalise her conduct. Please note that this material is inflammable. ‘Will it burst into flames, or not? Warning: This material is flammable./Please note that this material will burst into flames if exposed to heat/ Please note that this material is nonlammable/ ‘Anyone who is more than twenty years old is eligible. What about someone who had her twentieth birthday six months ago? If you have had your twenty-first birthday, you are cligible,/If you have had your twentieth birthday, you are eligible. Applications will be accepted between September 6 and September 12. ‘What about on the 6th or 1auw Applications will be accepted on or between September 6 and September 12./Applications will be accepted on or between September 7 and September 11 Payments must be made by the last day of each calendar month, 90 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH ‘What about on the last day? Payments must be made by or on the last day of each calendar month./Payments must be made before the last day of each calendar month, Rewrite the following document, eliminating ambiguities. You may need to ‘ACTIVITY give alternative interpretations of certain words and groups of words. MINISTRY OF ADMINISTRATIVE AFFAIRS INTERNAL MEMORANDUM ‘To: Linda Krasno From: Ralph Towner Subject: agenda for Monday | Date: 16 June, 1996 meeting ‘We need to discuss our approach to maintenance funds withdrawals and also deposits, which has been a cause of concern for some time. I’m particularly concerned that the ‘two emergency deposits which were withdrawn mysteriously failed to appear in the balance sheet for last year. John and Jacki or Renata can give you full details of it, ‘The auditors will go over these accounts and give us a grilling with a fine tooth comb, have no fear of that. To forestall any flak, I think you'd also better check details on hotel accommodation, entertainment expenses and tips that were not budgeted for. I also would like to discuss the temporary staff leave roster. ‘THE AMBIGUOUS WATER: CONFUSING AND AMBIGUOUS EXPRESSIONS $1 CLICHES AND TAUTOLOGIES CLICHES 92 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH So tar in writing nv Pain tng, we have considered various fats in 1g, Such as inappropriate use of passive voice, disjuncts, abstractions, circumlocutions, nominalisations, reification and ambiguous expressions. Apart from the obvious sins of ambiguity, there is nothing wrong with the other stylistic approaches — it is the overuse of such approaches that makes documents clogged and unclear. We are talking here about differ- ences of degree, rather than differences of kind. We will shortly consider the stylistic faults of euphemism, doublespeak and jargon, These approaches can lead to quite serious distortion of messages. Before we do so, let's consider some sins which are relatively minor, namely, clichés and tautologies. When writers use these to excess, they are guilty, not so much of irresponsibility, impersonality or deceptiveness, as of simple sloppiness. Glichés are words and groups of words that once were fresh ways of describing situations, but through overuse have become somewhat stale. What constitutes a cliché is often very much a matter of opinion: one person’ cliché is another person’s fresh, imaginative and irreplaceable expression — ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison, in fact To cut a long story short, with clichés, it’s the other, although it’s as plain as the nose on one’s face that while some are more sinned against than sinning, others are not worth the paper they are printed on, In fact, a world without s would be rather drab and lifeless Glichés, like tautologies (see pp.102-4), do not comprise a major usage problem when used sparingly — say, once in every ten sentences. It’s also true to say that we tend to tolenite clichés more in spoken language than in written language. When they are used frequently, however, particularly in written language, we are probably correct to assume that the users of clichés have a rather tired, trite and stereotypical view of life, and may be in des- erate need of an infusion of new ideas — indeed, are something of clichés themselves. Sometimes clichés can be simply replaced by other expressions, sometimes they can be simply omitted (because they are meaningless), and sometimes the sentence containing a cliché needs to be recast entirely. Without further ado, lev’s get down to tin tacks with clichés, and breathe a sigh of relief as we id them a fond farewell.3> ix of one and half a dozen of Table 10.1: Clichés and their meanings Cliché Meaningj/alternative expression acid test test Achilles heel vulnerable or weak spot ‘according to the record the record shows that ‘add insult to injury make (a situation) worse afterall is said and done really albatross around one’s neck problem, burden all comes down to this in summaryithe essence is, all other things being equal «given the same circumstances all systems go everything is ready answering yours of (omit anticipating your orderireply (omit are ofthe opinion thinkibelieve a luck would have it as it happened at one fell swoop all together at the end of the day finally at the crossroads at a critical point avoid lke the plague avoid/shun back to the drawing boardiback to square one let's begin again ball is in their/your court i's yourltheir turn bark up the wrong tree ‘concentrate on the wrong thingicause beg to advise you (omit) behind the eight ball in a bad situation best bet best decision between a rock and a hard place ina dilemma between the devil and the deep blue sea having no real choice big picture overall view bite the bullet well just have to doit blood, sweat and tears hard work bolls down to really means bone of contention source of disagreement (continued) ‘THE SLOPPY WRITER: CLICHES AND TAUTOLOGIES 89 94 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH ble 10.1 (continued) Cliché Meaningj/alternative expression bottom line situation/essence/inal position/total/ goal bring home the bacon succeed brassitin tacks, get down to get down to basics/focus on reality brownie points ccreditkudos/thanks bull in a china shop clumsy by and large ‘generally cake, to have one’s and eat it too have it both ways can of worms ‘complex problem can't s2e the forest for the trees focusing on small details while missing the broader picture/missing the point cart before the horse, don't put don't get things out their natural order catch with their pants down surprise them cchamping at the bit bbe impatient chapter and verse, cite/give give a precise authority ‘cheek to cheek ‘lose to chickens have come home to roost the past has caught up/consequences are apparent coals to Newcastle unnecessary cold comfort litle or no consolation cold water, to throw on to discourage ‘come hell or high water ‘come what mayino matter what happens come up/out smelling like roses ‘emerge unscathed/with reputation intact conspicuous by one’s absence crawling out of the woodwork missed appearinglemerging ‘cross thal bridge when we come to it hold off making a decision unt itis necessary cry all the way to the bank to profit from a situation, despite criticisms of others. dead horse, to flog to pursue a futile goal deadly earnest serious drive a truck/coach and horses through ignore/exploit the weaknesses of due in large measure to due largely to Cliché Meaningjalternative expression duly noted fomity each and every early bird catches the worm those who get there first have best chance of success egg on one’s face to have made a fool of oneself enough is enough that is sufficientino more is wanted/that Is too much every cloud has a silver lining the worst situation has some element of hope ‘everything but the kitchen sink virtually everything ‘everything you ever wanted to know ‘comprehensive treatment of .. /detalls about .... but were afraid to ask concerning face the music confront it fact of the matter the truth fair sex women fast lane, in the under pressure feast or famine ‘an overabundance or a shortage fow and far between fow first and foremost first fish out of water ‘someone out of their element flash in the pan’ brief tiumphvfailure following a promising start fly in the ointment problem follow in the footsteps of to succeed someoneito imitate for the purpose of in order to; to from the horse's mouth from the best authority garden path, lead up deceive gate (after the US Watergate ‘scandal of the 1970s) crisis/scandal {get down to the nitty-gritty ‘get down to basics give an inch and they'll take a mile yield only a litle, and you'll be taken advantage of give the green light to approve {gloom and doom pessimism {go overboard {90 to extremes (continued) ‘THE SLOPPY WRITER: CLICHES AND TAUTOLOGIES 95 96. WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH ble 10.1 (continued) Cliché Meaningj/alternative expression {90 with the flow accept things as they are {goes without saying is obvious ‘good team player ‘works well with others. gory details unpleasant particulars ‘green with envy envious half a loaf is better than none something is better than nothing hang in there keep at iUpersevere have a nice day enjoy the day heart of the matter essence here today and gone tomorrow passing fancyrlad hit the ground running seize an opportuntylact quickly hold your horses be pationt hook, ine and sinker completely horse of a different colour, a a different matter hot potato ‘embarrassing issue J amiwe are (ending last sentence) i) ifs, ands or buts reservations/restrictions/excuses if the shoe fits, wear it if something applies to you, accept it Ihave your letter of (omit) in for a penny, in for a pound don't stop at half measures in receipt of| (omit) in the drivers seat in control in the event that if in the final analysis finally in the limelight being the centre of attention in the long run finally in the neighbourhood of about in the pipeline imminenvupooming in this day and age today/presently it never rains, but it pours when something happens, it often happens to excess: it will all come out in the wash everything willbe finally resolved Cliché Meaningjalternative expression Jockey for position ‘manoeuvre jump the gun just desserts act prematurely deserved reward or punishment keep under your hat remain silent about keep your shirt on remain calm Kill two birds with one stone achieve two objectives with one action kinly advise (omit) kit and Kaboodle (the whole) everything know the ropes, to to be knowledgeable last but not least last lay it onthe tne speak frankly lay/spread it on thick exaggerate Teave inthe lurch abandon leave no stone unturned ‘explore every option/possibilty left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing ‘uncoordinated action leg, doesn't have a to stand on lot it all hang out to have no chance of success be frank let's get this show on the road let's govstant let the chips fall where they may whatever the consequences, do the right thing like a bull in @ china shop ‘clumsy/clumsily light at the end of the tunnel positive outcome like a ton of bricks (come down) very heavily/unsubtly lion's share ‘greatest part lock, stock and barrel ‘completely loose cannon serious and unpredictable threat ow man on the totem pole last, least important make inquiries regarding ask ‘make no bones about it, 10 to do or say something without hesitation, formality, or evasion ‘manna from heaven ‘sudden or unexpected advantage or help matter of life or death quite serious (continued) ‘THE SLOPPY WRITER: CLICHES AND TAUTOLOGIES 97 98 WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH ble 10.1 (continued) Cliché Meaningj/alternative expression ‘meet one’s Waterloo experience a major defeat millstone around one’s neck a burden mince words, not to to speak plainly ‘mint condition, in ‘moment of truth brand new, unused test ‘money is the root of all evil ‘materialism is the source of evil ‘monkey wrench in the works, sabotage Putithrow a ‘month of Sundays very long time ‘more than one way to skin a cat ‘more than one way to do something mum's the word keep a secret nail in the coffin, put another destroy, contribute to destruction ‘name of the game, the the heart of the matter, the true purpose ‘napping, to be caught to be surprised off guard, taken unawares needle in a haystack, lke finding a ‘something difficult or impossible to find ‘needs no introduction | is well known never a dull moment ‘something exciting is always happening never say die never give up, nipped in the bud stopped ‘no accounting for taste, there is each to his or her own preference no dice nothing doingit won't happen no (not a) problem/no worries it’s alrightidon't worry about it no way (José) it won't happeninot possible nose to the grindstone hard at work/focused upon nothing to write home about ‘nothing out of the ordinary nothing ventured, nothing gained if you won't take a chance, you can't be expected to gain anything not to be sneezed at not to be dismissed last chance to speak or act ‘no-win situation ‘a condition in which none can benefit or succeed of the above date omit) Cliché Meaningjalternative expression of that ik of the same kind or class off the deep end to overreact| off the record to speak confidentially off the top of one’s head oil on troubled waters, to pour impromptu, spontaneously to smoothe over, to calm things down (on a shoestring (on a limited budget (on the cards likely on the level honest/straightforward ‘on the rocks ruined on the ropes ‘on the brink of collapse (on the up and up honest/straightforward ‘once in a blue moon rarely Con tenterhooks, to be in state of painful suspense fn thin ice, to beYskate ‘a hazardous course of action or conversation orchestrate a scenario plan a situation out of the woodwork from everywhere ‘out of sight, out of mind what is absent is soon forgotten ‘out ofthe frying pan into the fire from bad to much worse ‘over my dead body {ll not allow it panic button, push the to overreact Patience of Job Tong: suffering permit us to remind (omit) Bie in the sky unrealistic piece of the action, a a part, a financial share play ball with cooperate with plot thickens, the the situation is becoming increasingly complex (at this) point in time ‘now proof of the pudding is in the eating performance is the only valid test put on holdithe back burner, to {0 postpone, delay put one’s money where one’s mouth is quantum leap back up your stated position with action sudden spectacular advance (continued) ‘THE SLOPPY WRITER: CLICHES AND TAUTOLOGIES 99 100. WRITING INPLANN ENGLISH ble 10.1 (continued) Cliché Meaningj/alternative expression read the riot act, bring to order referring to yours of (omit) regarding the matter (omit) regret to inform/advise’state i) reinvent the wheel, 10 to belabour the obvious rest assured be sure right on! keep going/l agree rob Peter to pay Paul, to to take funds from one source in order to pay another rock the boat, to to disturb a stable situation Rome was not built in a day ‘major achievements take a long time round peg in a square hole misfit running on empty at the end of one’s resources school of hard knocks earning from experience selling like hot cakes popular ‘separate the men from the boys, to to distinguish those who are mature ‘and competent from those who are young and green separate the sheep from the goats, to to sort the good from the bad situation omit 864000 question, the the hardest question of all skeleton in the closet secret shooting fish in a barrel, like very easy ‘smell a rat suspect snowballs chance in hell, no more than a rho chance at all state of the art best stick out lke a sore thumb is obvious straight from the shoulder blunt, outspoken strike while the iron is hot take advantage of favourable circumstances take the bull by the horns cconfront/take contro! ‘take into consideration think about take the rough with the smooth, to ‘accept the bad along with the good Cliché Meaningjalternative expression talk turkey, to to get to the point, to speak plainly thanking you in anticipation (omit) that's the way (how) the ball ounces! the cookie crumbles this is the way things have turned out, and there is nothing that can be done about it the pits (t's) throw out the baby with the bathwater, to/don't the worst to discard the good along with the bad toffor all intents and purposes to the nth degree track record in practical terms/virtually to the utmost possible ‘sum of a person's achievements under separate cover ‘upset the applecart to mailed separately to ruin carefully laid plans valued favourlorder (omit) vexed question ‘uestion/problem viable option cffective alternative warts and all| with all one’s faults| we are pleased to adviseinote i) wheels within wheels ‘complex motives or actions that interact with one another when all is said and done finaily/overall, or omit when in Rome, do as the Romans do follow the local customs when the chips are down in extreme situations whole ball of wax whole thinglin its entirety whole new ball game/ball of wax an entirely changed situation win some, lose some (you) ‘accept the fact that some ventures end In victory and others in defeat winiwin situation ‘ condition in which all can benefit wish to advise/note (omit) with reference to about you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs to accomplish something, you have to make sacrifices your letter of recent date (omit) your valued patronage (omit) ‘THE SLOPPY WAITER: CLICHES AND TAUTOLOGIES 101 The cliché generator TAUTOLOGY 102 WRITING INPLANN ENGLISH Rees (1984) has devised a ‘cliché generator’ to be used by journalists and editors. The concept is obviously satirical, but like all good satire, it comes uncomfortably close to the truth. It works like this: you simply take one word — any word — from each of the three columns, and — hey presto! — you have a headline which could be used by virtually any newspaper in the English-speaking world (particularly the more down-market ones) The concept has much in common with the jargon generator (see p. 112). axe Jooms shocks ban monster stalks bid move storm call plea strike ‘clampdown probe survivor dash riddle terror fear row test horror sexromp threat (Source Rens (1984: 92, Raproriced wih permission ) A tautology is a redundant expression, or a way of saying something (unnecess- arily) twice. AS with circumlocutions, abstractions, reification, nominalis- ations, disjunets and clichés, most of us use tautologies, and they are harmless when used every now and then. It’s wise, however, to check your written and spoken expression for tautologies: if you are using them to excess, then it, may be that you are not using language as precisely as you should. As with circumloci thought, mn and cliches, tautologies may betray a certain flabbiness of Table 10.2: Tautologies, and preferable alternatives Minimise using Instead use . a distance of four metres four metres absolutely essential essential an assassination attempt on the life of ‘an assassination attempt/an attempt on the life of as for example asifor example as an extra added bonus as a bonus at a later date later basic essentials/tundamentals. cessentials/fundamentals Minimise using ... Instead use ... but... however buthowever but nevertheless: butinevertheless collaborate together collaborate/work together completely filed filed completely surrounded surrounded consensus of opinion Consensus or opinion continue to remain continue/remain count up ‘count current trend trend definitely proved proved disappear from sight disappear end result result equal halves halves equally as good equal/as good estimated at about | estimated at every individual one every one fair and square fairy/correctly far and away easily fewer in number fewer filled to capacity filed finally ended ended for a period of 10 days for 10 days forward planning planning ‘grouped together ‘grouped in actual fact infact in close proximity to, near close to in conjunction with with irregardless regardless joivlink together joining Took back in retrospect Took back may inthe future ‘may, might, could may possibly go may go (continued) ‘THE SLOPPY WAITER: CLICHES AND TAUTOLOGIES 108 108 WRITING INPLANN ENGLISH ble 10.2 (continued) Minimise using Instead use . ‘mutual cooperation ‘cooperation ‘my own personal opinion ‘my opinion native habitat habitat natural instinct instinct new beginning beginning on Friday 25 December next (on Friday 25 December (context will clarify which one) cone after another in succession cone after another or alternatively orialternatively other alternative (for second choice) —_| alternative originally created created ‘open up open pair of twins twins percolate down percolate permeate throughout permeate penetrate into penetrate postponed to a later date postponed pre-plan plan rate of speed speed related to each other related reason is because, the reason is, thefbecause repeat again repeat revert back revert seal off seal ‘spell out in detailidepth spell out stil in use today stil in usevin use today suddenly exploded ‘exploded symptoms indicative of symptoms of ‘temporary loan loan tentatively suggest suggest tentative hypothesis hypothesis triply redundant systems (1o describe a system with two back-up systems) doubly redundant systems TAL ol KING NTS Rewrite the following letter, removing any clichés. You may need to recast sentences. Ihave your letter of the 21st of August. We regret to inform you that we are unable to fill your order at this point in time, but rest assured that we are of the opinion that each and every item you have requested will be in your hands soon. ‘We have given the green light to your line of credit, but we beg to advise you that we are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to considering the barter arrangements you mentioned. While it goes without saying that there are many commercial transactions in this day and age outside the cash economy, the bottom line is that we have had little experience with such transactions. In the final analysis, however, I am of the opinion that management here will face the music and bite the bullet and accept your barter offer, seeing it as a viable option. YOU DON’T SAY? MORE OF WHAT PEOPLE SAY ABOUT PLAIN ENGLISH Myth Fact 1 | Formal documents can't be ‘The aim is to get the message written in plain English, They across quickly and easily so need complex language and. there is no confusion. A reader: “proper English’ friendly document has clear, precise writing presented in a way that readers can easily understand, Being reader- friendly saves money because it saves time, 2/| If L write in plain English the ‘The most complicated legal documents won't be legally documents can be expressed binding. Legal language clearly and simply. Documents complex; there is no way you do not need complex language can make it plain, and jargon to have the desired effect, In fact, unintelligible documents in legalese may be unenforceable, Education levels are not the sue, Even people with a 3 | If people had a reasonable standard of educat English doct university degree can be left necessary. totally confused by poorly thought out and badly written documents. (continued) ‘THE SLOPPY WAITER: CLICHES AND TAUTOLOGIES 105 (continued) Myth Fact Clear communication is only needed for people from non- Englishspeaking backgrounds who don't speak English very well Poorly written documents confuse all readers. If a message is badly written and designed, everyone will have trouble understanding it. 5 | Making documents reader friendly will cost too much. ‘That won't help our profit margin. Using reader-friendly documents will save you ‘money. Improved information flow leads to greater efficiency and improved profit margins. Even major investment by big firms in readerfriendly programs reaps dividends, 6 | Its not necessary. I ean talk people through anything they don’t understand. 7 | Our processes require the use of long, difficult words. There is just no way around that. We can’t possibly simplify our procedures manuals. ‘You can, but every time you do, you waste time. What happens when you're not there and something is, misunderstood? It could cost you thousands. It’s essential to make sure documents and instructions make sense — to everyone. Being reader-friendly or writing plain English is not about getting rid of all the words ‘with more than three letters. It is about understanding, clarity and good design. It is not large words which confuse readers, it is the way they are used. Using technical terms is not a problem, provided your target readers understand them. 8 | People who can't understand documents and forms must be stupid, Documents which are not readerfriendly also confuse telligent, educated people. A judge recently ruled that a contract was not binding because no-one, not even members of the legal profession, could understand, ‘what it meant. 105. WRITING INPLANN ENGLISH (Source: Social Change Mecia [1999] Communicating fr Success, Canberra: Department of Education, Employment and Training, Reproduced with permission) You must communicate effectively to succeed in the 1990s. 1. MEET QUALITY STANDARDS All Australian companies are doing their utmost to reach quality standards. To get accreditation to international quality standards everyone in your workplace must understand workplace procedures. 2. SAVE MONEY You can save a fortune by making sure the message is understood the first time. The NRMA is saving hundreds of thousands of dollars by making their communication clear and easy to follow. Other companies have also made huge savings. You can do the same, 3. GET IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME ‘A written instruction that is misunderstood could cost your company a fortune in lost productivity. Even if it’s not a major disaster, whenever people have to get a second opinion on something they've read, they are wasting your ‘money. Make sure they understand it the first time. 4, THINK BEFORE YOU WRITE Don’t do it the same way just because that’s the way its always been done. ‘Think about your message. Maybe there is a better way. A message on the computer might be better than a newsletter. Maybe a poster is better than a memo. 5. AIM FOR YOUR AUDIENCE Make sure the message is right for the people who have to read it ‘The people who have to read the document you write should be able to understand it easily, Being reader-friendly doesn’t mean you can't use technical words. It means you have to make sure the message is understood. 6, TEST IT BEFORE YOU USE IT Never assume you've got it right. “Test everything. Even informal testing, like getting a couple of the people you are writing the document for to look at it, is better than nothing. Make sure that people can do more than just read it ~ make sure they understand what you are telling them, or asking them to do, (Source: Social Change Media [1993] Communicating for Success, Canberra: Department of Education, Employment and Training, Reproduced with permission) Mr Speaker, I said the honourable member was a li true and I am sorry for it. The honourable member may place the punctuation where he pleases. Richard Brinsley Sheridan (on being asked ¢ for calling a fellow member a liar. Attributed.) ‘THE SLOPPY WAITER: CLICHES AND TAUTOLOGIES 107 108 WRITING INPLANN ENGLISH LATIN ISN'T MUCH USE FOR COMMUNICATION BETWEEN LAWYERS, AND THEIR CLIENTS — UNLESS THE CLIENTS ARE ANCIENT ROMANS, Maria Hunter and Amanda Chambers give some advice to lawyers who some- times prefer Latin to plain English. Why do writers of legal documents use Latin when many modern readers do not understand Latin? Centuries ago lawyers used Latin because they considered it more precise than the fledgling English language. But most Latin used in legal writing no longer more precise. In fact, the original Latin words have taken on a life of their own by acquiring extra meanings. In the list below we give the ‘translation’ of 40 Latin words lawyers like to use. We also show some extra meanings which are not always the same as the ‘translation’. We recommend you use plain words to say exactly what you mean rather than relying on archaic words which may not mean what you want. Latin term Meaning(s) 4 priori deducing the effect from the cause; deducing by assumed principles; by deduction ab initio from the bey Aa the start; is also used to mean thoroughly (as in from first to last) ad valorem according to value amicus curiae literally friend of the court; # is also used to mean a person who is not one of the parties and who the court permits to argue facts of law; an independent witness appointed by the court bona fide in good faith; with honest intentions; it &8 also used to ‘mean genuine corpus delicti literally the body of the crime; substance or foundation of the crime de minimus trifling, insignificant et al and others et seq and following Latin term Meaning(s) ex gratia as a favour; it is also used to ‘mean (of a payment) made without admitting legal liability ex officio ex parte ue to the position a person holds; (of powers) implied due to the person’s position rather than, given specifically (of an application) made by one party to a legal action when another party is absent in loco parentis in the place of a parent; in the role of a parent; instead of a parent in pari delicto equally at fault in personam (of legal action) involving a person's personal rights in rem (of legal action) involving a person's rights over property inter alia among other things Jus tert the rights of a person who is not ‘one of the parties involved dispute mens rea guilty intention mutatis mutandis with the necessary changes; with the changes needed obiter dictum literally “words otherwise’; an opinion or comment expressed incidentally to a court’s decision pari passa (of division) equally according to their rights/proportionately and simultancously per annum each year per se by/of itself prima facie at first appearance; at first glance; on the face of it (continued) ‘THE SLOPPY WAITER: CLICHES AND TAUTOLOGIES 109 {WO WRITING INPLAIN ENGLISH (continued) Latin term Meaning(s) pro bono publico for the benefit of the whole community pro rata in proportion; proportional; proportionate pro tanto to that extent; as far as it goes quid pro quo something received in return for something else; compensation ratio decidendi the reason(s) for a court's decision res ipsa loquitur the act of thing ‘speaks’ for itself seriatim one by one; one after another; separately sine qua non a necessary condition or requirement sub judice being considered/heard by a court sui generis in a category of its own; in a class of its own. ut juris of a person's own right; of legal capacity (e.g: age) supra above ultra vires ‘unauthorised; beyond a person's power viva voce spoken (Source: Hunter, Maria and Chambers, Amanda {1994] ‘Save Latin for your cllents who are Ancient Romans’, Explain [Newstote of the Centre for Plain Legal LanguageUniversity of Syéney Law ‘School, June.) EUPHEMISMS, GOBBLEDEGOOK, DOUBLESPEAK AND JARGON EUPHEMISMS Paopte dont aways sy what dey mean. They wil often distort a message using verbal strategies such as euphemisms argon or other types of inflated or distorted languige. Pin Engish documents. shoul! be ee of such Euphemisms, for example, are used when people talk about unpleasant things, but wish to mask the unpleasantness. Thus, instead of saying that a person has been fired, sacked or dismissed, we can say that they have been involved in or have been the vietim of one of the following: career change coerced transition deselection executive culling involuntary separation redeployment ination selective separation voluntary severance work force imbalance correction (Source: Crystal 1995.) opportunity decruitment downsizing force reduction outplacement redundancy ghtsizing transitioning voluntary termination THEDECEPTVE WAITER 111 JARGON The jargon generator DOUBLESPEAK 112 WRITING INPLANN ENGLISH uphemisms are also often used to disguise matters relating to sex or bodily functions, and sometimes employ other languages, such as French oF Latin, to mask the literal and basic English meanings (see pp. 153-4) Note that so-called ‘politically correct’ language may be a form of ‘euphemism.** Euphemisms can, of course, often be employed for perfectly hon- ‘ourable reasons, particularly when users use them to spare the feelings of others. Jargon also can perform a useful function when it is a technical language used among specialists in certain areas, and used without the intent of deceiving or confusing others outside that specialist group. Some level of jargon, in other words, is unavoidable.” All too often, however, jargon is used by professions or groups of people to exclude others. As George Bernard Shaw once observed: ‘All professions are conspiracies against the layman’ When used to deceive, jargon is sometimes referred (0 as gobbledegook, doublespeak, bureaueratese or batilegab, ‘The jargon generator, below, has proven to be an excellent deflator of the pom posities of people addicted to jargon and gobbledegook. If you simply say or ‘write one word at random from any of the three columns, you will immediately sound as though you have expertise in a highly specialised area (compare this with the cliché generator, p. 102). The jargon or buzz-phrase generator has been around for almost thirty years now, and itis stil as vicious and accurate a parody Of jargon, gobbledegook or meaningless waffle as it was when first invented. Indeed, it is something of a worry that this parody from the 1960s, and Orwell's parody of gobbledegook from the 1940s (p. 1), are still relevant in the 1990s. management options organisation flexibility systematised monitored capability parallel reciproc: mobility functional digital programming responsive logistical concept ‘optimal transitional time-phase synchronised incremental projection ‘compatible fifth-generation hardware balanced policy contingency Inflated language is sometimes used in a harmless way, when individuals or professions adopt absurd titles as a form of selfparodying humour, Lutz (1989) has attempted to classify uses of euphemism, jargon, gobblede- gook and inflated language (table 11.1). You may not have come across all the ‘meanings in table 11.1, but you will probably be familiar with similar verbal strategies from your own experience. As with misuse of passive voice, dis- junets, abstractions, circumlocutions, nominalisations and reification, such Strategies create a type of communication where it is not clear where responsi- bility lies and where it is not clear precisely what meaning is being conveyed. Table 11.1: Four types of doublespeak ‘Type of doublespeak Example Analysis Euphemism (acttul) passed away (death) rest room (toilet) User protects feelings of another person; also ‘communicates concern for another person's feelings during a period (of mourning User shows respect for social taboos about discussing bodily functions; also indicates sensitivity to feelings of audience, which is usually considered a mark of courtesy and good manners Euphemism (used to mislead or deceive) radiation enhancement weapon (neutron bomb) incontinent ordinance (bombs and artillery shells that fall on civilian targets) User avoids discussing period of accelerated negative growth (recession) zap (kill) blow away (kil) eliminate with extreme prejudice (kill) ‘atmospheric deposition of anthropogenetically- derived acidic substances (acid rain) ‘gaming (gambling) ‘members of a career- offender cartel (Mafia/La Cosa Nostra/mobsters in Atlantic City, as described by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement) ballistically induced aperture in the ‘subcutaneous environment (bullet hole) User avoids discussing unpleasant reality unpleasant reality (continued) THEDECEPTVE WAITER 119 {14 WRITING INPLANN ENGLISH Table 11.1 (continued) ‘Type of doublespeak Example Analysis Jargon (used as technical shorthand within a specialised group) involuntary conversion Used by American lawyers to describe loss cr destruction of property through thet, accident or condemnation Jargon (used when deceptively ‘communicating with persons outside the specialised group) involuntary conversion of arer ‘A727 crashed in 1978, killing 52 passengers. This yielded a $1.7 milion after-tax Insurance benefit, The airiine company did not wish to mention a crash, and so referred to it using these jargon terms in a footnote in its annual report. Gobbledegook! bureaucratese "I think our performance in terms of the liftoff performance and in terms of the orbital performance, we knew ‘more about the envelope we were operating under, land we have been pretty accurately staying in that. ‘And so | would say the performance has not by design drastically improved. | think we have been able to characterise the performance more as ‘a function of our launch experience as opposed to improving it over time. NASA engineer, ‘commenting on 1986 Challenger shuttle disaster, ‘We were not ‘micromanaging Grenada inteligence-wise until about that time frame! US admiral explaining why US forces had poor intelligence information in 1983 invasion of Grenada, Created by piling on words, overwhelming the audience with words, the bigger the words and the longer the sentences the better ‘Type of doublespeak Example Analysis Inflated language ‘automotive internists Designed to make the (car mechanics) ordinary seem extraordinary; to make 'Non-mutticolour Capability (description of | &verYd2y things sem impressive; to give an air black and white TV set) (of importance to people, vertical transportation | situations, or things that corps (elevator would not normally be operators) considered important; to initiate a career ‘make the simple seem complex. enhancement program (lay off 5000 workers) negative patient care ‘outcome (the patient died) rapid oxidation (fire in a nuclear power plant) pre-emptive counter- attack (American forces attacked first) ‘engaged the enemy on all sides (American troops were ambushed) backloading of augmentation personnel {retreat by American troops) pre-dawn vertical insertion (invasion) (Source: Adapted from Lutz, 1089.) Problems arise when cuphemism, jargon, gobbledegook and_ inflated language are used to deceive others. As Lutz observes: Doublespeak ... that defines cab drivers as ‘urban transportation specialists’, levator operators as members of the ‘vertical transportation corps’, and automobile mechanics as ‘automotive internists’ can be considered humorous. and. relatively harmless. However, when a fire in a nuclear reactor building is called “rapid oxi dation’, an explosion in a nuclear power plant is called an ‘energetic disassembly’, the illegal overthrow of a legitimate government is termed “destabilising a govern. ment’, and Ties are seen as ‘inoperative statements’, we are hearing doublespeak that attempts to avoid responsibility and make the bad seem good, the negative appear positive, something unpleasant appear attractive; and which seems to communicate but doesn't, 1 is language designed to alter our perception of realty and conrupt our thinking. Such language does not provide us with the tools we need to develop, advance and preserve our culture and our civilisition. Such language breeds suspicion, cynicism, distrust, and, ultimately, hostility. (Lutz 1989: 20) THEDECEPTVE WATER 115 The Quarterly Journal of Doublespeak takes great delight in recording exam- ples of jargon, cuphemism, gobbledegook and doublespeak. The following More on doublespeak inaching quiz was taken trom a 1994 edition of the journal. Try it, and see how adept you are at translating misleading. or overblown language into plain English. 1993 Doublespeak quiz What kind of year was 1993 for doublespeak? Match the two columns and find out. 1. Penile insertive behaviour A. Fired, 2. Maximum incapacitation B. Slaughter large numbers of people 3. Age-controled environment C. Horse racing 4, Rough-and-tumble neighbourhood D. Bag of ice cubes 5. Subsistence specialist E. An alcoholic 6. Permanently remove from society F Peasant 7. Being walked G. Bribes and kickbacks 8. Impoverished agricultural worker H. Sexual intercourse 9. Sales credits 1. Car salesperson 10. Pedestrian facilities J. Zoo 11, Thermal soil remediation kit K. Open pit for burning trash 12. Thermal therapy kit 1. Down payment 13, Vietim of habitually detrimental M. A cook lifestyle 14, Employee repositioning, No Abar 15, Customer capital cost reduction ©. Sidewalks 16. Transportation counsellor P_ Death penalty 17. Owner pretested Q Incinerator 18. Physical examination R. Slum or ghetto 19, Wildlife conservation program with 8. Lie detector test some permanent facilities 20. Purification TA casino 21. Large, agriculturally based industey U. Kill 22. Forensic psychophysiological V._ Drug test detection of deception 23. Multidimensional gaming with an W. Used entertainment complex 24, Air curtain incinerator X. Destroy an entire village (Source: The Quarterly Joumal of Doublespeak (January, 1994, p. 9. © 1994 National Council of Teachers of English. Reproduced wih permission) 116 WRITING INPLANN ENGLISH 1. The clarity or otherwise of all documents is critically affected by the level and type of jargon present. All jargons develop as specialised technical languages, their prime purpose being to help, not hinder, communication. But what is jargon? All too often, one person's impenetrable jargon is another person's transparent and indispensable short-cut language. (a) Make multiple copies of the communication analysis table on p. 118. (b) Use copies of the table to record sample opinions of people working in industry or your area of inquiry. Sampling may occur through inter- views, by leaving copies of the table with sample participants, or by mailing or faxing copies out. If sample participants are difficult to contact, or are uncooperative, then people teaching in the industry or area may be an acceptable substitute. Participants may need more than one page. (0) Discuss results, noting, in particular, areas of disagreement between recipients. What implications do such disagreements have for the industry or area of inquiry? (The group sampled may appreciate some feedback on this exercise.) Other questions that might be discussed are: ‘+ How many of these terms would be comprehensible to outsiders/lay people? ‘+ How might specialists inside an industry or area of inquiry modify or translate such terms when communicating with outside audiences — for example, in a submission/proposal for funding, a report to a parliamentary committee of inquiry, or an advertisement? THEDECEPTVE WRITER 117 ‘SWH3LNOSUVE ONISNINOD ‘SWH3L1N43SN ATANINNaD uoBref Bussnyuoo exe swe} YoILin pue ‘Auynbu! Jo were J0 AnjsnpUt JNOK ut ‘asn yeroiyjoun yo Ul oq YB swe} aseu “Buel Jo swe ‘sjdequ0o ‘sasseooid jo seweu pasieloads eq yélU SUH} Yong “SuIpUE;SsepUN U! AuNoYs ynbut jo Baxe J0 Axjsnpul snok oj snblun axe TEU) ara 1 VONBO|UNUWOD 0} SPIE [ny—sN AjouINUEB oxe onayeq NOK op sue} YOUN, jeniu!) swAuoioe ‘suoneinesqge ‘wueudinbe snpu snoK @pysino ‘se SuJ9} AUBUI SE JO HUNK) PUP Ai aSEeIc, AMINONI 4O VSHW/ALLSNONI INN BNOA SITAVL SISATYNV NOLLVOINNINWOO {18 WRITING INPLAIN ENGLISH 2. Refer to the jargon generator (p. 112). Think of an area of inquiry, job or hobby you are familiar with, Draw up a blank table like the one below and create a jargon generator of your own, relevant to that area, job or hobby. Does such a generator give an insight into the language used in that area, job or hobby, or does it merely trivialise and distort that field? JARGON GENERATOR FOR 3. Find examples of tactful and deceptive euphemism, and of inflated language. What plain English alternatives might there be to such terms? THEDECEPTVEWRITER 119 24 o> on 120 WRITING INPLAN ENGLISH ‘SIRHUMPHREYSPEAK’ — JARGON, DOUBLESPEAK AND GOBBLEDEGOOK FROM A MASTER, ‘The main characters in the BBC television series Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister were a bumbling politician, Jim Hacker, and a scheming public servant, Sir Humphrey Appleby. Sir Humphrey was a master of gobbledegook, as these extracts show, From ‘The Tangled Web’ episode (Sir Humphrey drove from Number 10 Downing Street directly to Broad- casting House, where he gave bis frstever radio interview: Only one copy of the recording now exists, not at the BBC itself but in Sir Humphrey Appleby’s own private archive. With the kind permission of Lady Appleby, his widow, we gained access to the strongroom of the Midland Bank in Haslemere, and we made a transcript of the recording, the relevant portion of which we print below — Ea.) Sir Humphrey: Whereas there must inevitably be some clement of shared responsibility for the governance of Britain as between the legislators on the one hand and the administrators on the other, the precise allocation of cause to consequence, or agency to eventuality, in any particular instance is wariably so complex as to be ultimately invalid, if not irresponsible, Interviewer: Yes. If | could press you for a more precise answer or a concrete example, how much blame can the Civil Service take for the present level of unemployment? Sir Humpbrey: Well, of course, unemployment is a single name applied by the media to what is in effect a wide range of socio-economic phenomena whose most politically viable manifestation happens to be Interviewer (interrupting): But to be precise, how much blame. ...? Sir Humphrey: One moment. Happens to be a current frequency of weekly registrations on the national unemployment register which is deemed to be above what has historically been held to be an acceptable level. But even separating out the component causes, let alone allocating the responsibility, for them, is a task of such analytical delicacy as not to be susceptible of compression within the narrow confines of a popular radio program such as this Interviewer: Sir Humphrey Appleby, thank you very much, (At this point, when the interview apparently ended, it is possible to bear the bored but polite voice of the Producer — Fd.) Producer (over studio intercom): Thank you very much, Sir Humphrey Absolutely splendid, (And now the conversation continues, the tape still running even after the interview is finished — Ed.) Sir Humphrey: Was that all right? Interviewer: Couldn't you have said a little more? At least about unemploy- ment? Sir Humpbrey: Such as? Interviewer:Well, the uth. Sir Humphrey laughs. Interviewer: Why do you laugh? Sir Humpbrey: My dear chap, no one tells the truth about unemployment. Interviewer: Why not? Sir Humpbrey: Because everyone knows you could halve it in a few weeks, Interviewer: How? Sir Humphrey: Cut off all social security to any claimant who refused two job offers, ‘There is genuine unemployment in the north, but the south of England is awash with layabouts, many of them graduates, living off the dole and housing benefit plus quite a lot of cash they pick up without telling anyone. Interviewer:You mean moonlighting, Sir Humpbrey: Well, its cheating really. They'd need to earn nearly £200 a week to be better off working full time. But there are thousands of unfilled vacancies and most employers tell you they'te shortstaffed. Offer the ‘unemployed a street-sweeping job and a dish-washing job, and they'd be off the register before you can say ‘parasite’. Frankly, this country can have as much unemployment as it’s prepared to pay for in social security. And no politicians have the guts to do anything about it Interviewer: wish you'd said that before. Sir Humpbrey:\'m sure you do (The tape ends at this point.) ‘The rest of the episode is concerned with Sir Humphrey's panic when he realises that there is a copy of the interview, plus his ‘unofficial’ comments, in circulation, The contrast, of course, is between the gobbledegook spoken for public consumption and the alltoo-plain speech uttered in what he thought ‘was private conversation. From “The National Education Service’ episode I Gim Hacker) stayed calm. ‘So you think they'll (public servants) block it (@ reform program)? | mean, he (Sir Humphrey) said, tightlipped and angry, ‘that they will give it the most serious and urgent consideration, but on a thorough and rigorous examination of all the proposals, allied to a detailed feasibility study and budget analysis before producing a consultative document for consider ation by all interested bodies and seeking comments and recommendations to be incorporated in a brief for a series of working parties who will produce individual studies that will form the background for a more wide-ranging docu- ment considering whether or not the proposal should be taken forward to the next stage: He meant they'd block it! (Source: Extracts reproduced trom Yes, Prine Minister by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn with the permission of BBC Worldwide Limited) ‘THEDECEPTVE WRITER 121 PERSONAL, 122 WRITING INPLAN ENGLISH OSITIVE AND READER-CENTRED The tone or fet ofa document i ict thing 1 pin dow, but we can sv least attempt todo 30 companies to find owt about how they would manage your more. Both ee [eens [oan ————— scoryaawer | Somme iecmrtimces’ | Soares cece | Sat Semmens | RR aie | amen oe ee So atoms | I on a | Rg a Teese, | manent sate, | Rye ibcamrmm, | Cenc Semone | Sema caren” | ete a through my office. personally provide you with any information you seek. ‘Who would you invest your money with? Most people would feel inclined to go with Organisation B, but why? Because the fone of the letter is more attractive. ‘Tone tells us about the writer’s attitude, how he or she feels about the der, The writer from Organisation A comes across as: + impersonal + negative + concerned with the company’s interests rather than those of the reader. Good plain English style has tone that is + personal + positive + readercentred. THE PERSONAL APPROACH You are not a robot, and you don’t deal with robots every day, so why should you write like a robot? Many organisations prefer a house style of writing that is impersonal: Official policy on this is Acme Electronics will not buy at this price ‘The applicant must submit three copies Customers need to observe the following regulations People who write such words do not conduct conversations with their colleagues, friends and loved ones using such expressions, Instead, like all human beings, they use normal personal pronouns such as J, we, ours, you and yours, This shows a certain amount of warmth and empathy. Why then do organisations persist with impersonal style? Impersonal style is often adopted because the people adopting it think that such style is professional, and coolly detached. This can be a good thing, but when carried to extremes, the impersonal style is seen as cold and hostile. Again, contrast Organisation A's letter with that of Organisation B, Users of the impersonal style thrive on the use of passive voice and disjuncts (pp.55-9), and nominalisation, abstraction, circumlocution and reification (pp.62-84). In an age when organisations claim that they want to communicate more directly with customers, it is time to use the personal style more often. People respond to directness and empathy, not to abstraction and remoteness. This is not to say that writers should adopt a gushingly familiar tone with readers; it is merely to say that a personal style is + more civilised + more polite + more effective, THE POSITIVE APPROACH Consider the various negative words and phrases in English, some of whi we have already seen in Organisation A's letter: No Nor NEVER UNABLE HOWEVER yer FORBIDDEN PROHIBITED UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES RESTRICTED HAVE NO OBJECTIONS AVOID CEASE NOT YET PROVED WITHOUT LACKING How do these terms make you feel? Negative expressions produce reactions of fear, insecurity, resentment and aggression in readers and listeners — and, for the most part, that is not a good thing (See discussion of warnings, p.125). Negative expressions, in combination with impersonality and writer- centredness, produce an authoritarian, bullying, bossy feel to documents. ‘TONE: PERSONAL, POSITIVE AND READER-CENTRED 123 Negative expressions, however, are also hard work: they present readers and listeners with another level of meaning that has to be translated. Consider, for example, these contrasting passages: Negative phrasing Positive phrasing It is not obvious to us that this fee should not be disallowed at this juncture, and we would have no objections to work Deginning in the not too distant future, providing the company concession granted by the has not ceased to attract the government for this type of non-permanent government ‘work. tax concession unavailable for It is clear that this fee should be approved, and we would be happy to see the work begin soon, provided the company still receives the temporary tax all types of work except this. Notice that you have to work hard to decipher just what is going on in the negative version, Sentences suddenly take on the look of equations, and readers have to adopt the role of mathematicians, crossing out negative values to produce a final result. Sentences, however, shouldn't be such hard work. Notice also that, in comparison with the positive version, the negative version is cold and unenthusiastic. Most of us would prefer to read the positive version rather than the negative one. ‘The murkiness of negative expression, and the clarity of positive expression also can be seen in figure 12.1, which shows some health care regulations, before and after rewriting, Before After $228.40 Minor medical and remedial $228.40 Minor medical and remedial care. care. (@) FFP is not available for medical care, other than family planning services, except when it is an integral but subordinate part of a service described in the services plan, and the medical and remedial care is not available to the individual under the State's approved title XIX plan and to the extent the individual or the provider is not eigible to receive payment under title XVIII for the provision of the service to the individual. Figure 12.1 (Source: Reich 1901: $3. Reproduced with permission ) 124 WRITING INPLANN ENGLISH (@)_ FFP is available in the cost of family planning services with no limitations. (b) FFP is available in other medical and remedial care only if the following conditions are met: GQ) The care is an integral but subordinate part of a service described in the State's services plan; @) The care is not available to the individual under the State’s title XIX plan; and, (3) Neither the recipient nor the provider of the care is eligible to receive payment for that care under title XVIIL of the Act. If partial payment is available under title XVII, FFP is available under title XX for that portion not covered by title XVII Rewriting negative clauses in a health care regulation, Some subtlety can be given to writing with the use of double negatives: nor be disallowed ... not dissimilar to... not unsympathetic to... not infre- quently... not unconnected with However, a little of this subtlety goes a long way, Ultimately, double negative constructions mean more work for your reader, and you should thus be ‘not your use of them, pressions do have their place, however, in situations requiring warnings. These jons include those where there might be physical danger for the reader, or where there might be serious legal consequences for the reader. DO NOT PLACE THIS BOTTLE NEAR A NAKED FLAME. DO NOT TURN ON THE MACHINE UNTIL YOU HAVE READ THIS PAGE. THE SALE OF ALCOHOL TO PERSONS UNDER 18 IS NOT PERMITTED. PLEASE DO NOT FAIL TO RESPOND TO THIS SUMMONS. SUCH FAILURE MAY LEAD TO YOUR BEING ARRESTED AND CHARGED. THE READER-CENTRED APPROACH ‘The bureaucratic, stuffy letter from Organisation A (p. 122) is impersonal and negative. It also shows that the writer is primarily concerned with his or her own interests and problems rather than the reader's interests and problems. In other words, it shows a writercentred, rather than a reader- centred, approach. ‘The writer has an 1/We attitude, rather than a you attitude (see p. 13). Your readers — unsurprisingly — are concemed with their own world, and with how you can help them. This is not necessarily egotistical and narrow on their part — merely practical. Writers using the bureaucratic style often neglect the point of view of the reader, The person being addressed — the applicant, the buyer, the student/traince, the complainant, the user, the lessee, the taxpayer — is scen as an afterthought, a nuisance. This is a mistake. The reader is usually the customer or client of the writer, and thus, in a very real sense, the writer’s employer. Without clients or customers, the writer would ‘TONE: PERSONAL, POSITIVE AND READER-CENTRED 125 not have a job or role, Means and ends have become confused. The means — the system driven by the writer — has become an end in itself, rather than something to serve the reader. Writers of plain English should thus adopt a reader-centred approach. This is not necessarily the same thing as a personal approach. Writers can make their documents more personal by the use of personal references, but if first: person references — J, me, mine, our, we, our organisation — outnumber the second-person references — you, your, yours, your organisation — then the approach is personal, but writercentred. It is, in fact, useful to calculate the empathy index** of your documents to check the focus. The empathy index of a document is constructed by subtracting the number of all first person references from the number of all secone-person references. Here's an example: Company C Company D We think you will like our new | A loys of your income — it income loss insurance plan. Our | could be a disaster for you, planning staff at Perennial your colleagues and your Insurance have researched this | _ family. area of policy development Perennial may be able to help intensively, and we think that you with our new income loss we have come up with the best | insurance plan. possible product here. ‘You can be covered for loss of Cover of up to $50000 a year | income of up to $50000 dollars is available should a loss of a year. You can’t get better income occur. Only Perennial coverage than that, ‘can offer such high levels of For your convenience, we can cover. make provision for premiums We recommend automatic to be deducted from your deductions of premiums from salary. salary. This will speed processing through our new, state-of theart computer system. Second-person references = 1 Second person references = 9 Firstperson references Empathy index = 9 — ‘The empathy index, like readability scores (See pp.150-6) is crude, but nevertheless often effective in keeping your writing on track. TONE IN PLAIN ENGLISH DOCUMENTS 126 WRITING INPLAN ENGLISH As was mentioned at the outset of this chapter, document tone is often a difficult quality to pin down, but some aspects of it can be observed and controlled, Strive to make your documents as personal, positive and reader centred as possible. If you achieve this, your documents will be measurably clearer and more effective, 1. Collect a number of documents — letters, memos, regulations, contracts, ‘ACTIVITIES instructions and advertisements. 2. Make a copy of the plain English tone sheet for each document (see below). Evaluate each document by placing check marks or ticks on each line of the sheet. 3. Rewrite the documents so that they have maximum values for personal tone, positive tone and reader-centred tone. PLAIN ENGLISH TONE SHEET DOCUMENT: IMPERSONAL, PERSONAL, NEGATIVE POSITIVE WRITER-CENTRED READER-CENTRED. Second-person references. C] Firstperson references] EMPATHY INDEX = ‘TONE: PERSONAL. POSITIVE AND READER-CENTRED 127 Table 13. Rule possible.” Gender roles are changing throughout soc Is no longer appropriate longer appropriate co assume that ll homemakers, res and secretaries ae female Tike cae to ensure that your wring does not comey sender sercmype In particular, watch your use of the male pronouns be, bis and don Crete the other hal of the human ce by presuming that everythin. Sorkplace documents pertains to the ale gender (On the other hand e wary of ends repeating constructions ike Be o cin in you wig the can shows tat yo ae sense To per set ican as become boring an! chums. ad this ein annoy your sede Sve to achieve variety at well appropiate gender blanc, Some sates to fehieve this are ven in table 15 : Strategies for gender-neutral writing Unrevised form Revised form Use a pair of pronouns. ‘A manager needs to know what his | A manager needs to know what his project budget is going to be. or her budget is going to be, Just ask any nurse what she thinks | Just ask any nurse what she or he of herprofession, and that might _ | thinks of her or his profession, and help your career planning, that might help your career planning, Use the slash/combined form, The clerk will need to have a The clerk will need to have a requisition form signed before ne | requisition form signed before s/he can obtain a modem. can obtain a modem. Use the imperative. Recast the sentence to omit the | The average student may end up | The average student may end up gender-specific pronounis. spending too much of his money | spending too much money on on software. software. The operator needs to equip The operator needs to become himself or herself with these equipped with these protective protective devices. devices, He or she can load the floppy disk. | Load the floppy disk. 128 WRITING INPLANN ENGLISH