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The Plain English Movement - will it ever catch on?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I start a new class this week: Technical Writing. The first reading assignment comes from the SEC: A Plain English Handbook - How to create clear SEC disclosure documents. It's pretty easy reading, sensible in its recommendations, and I started to think...hey, this could seriously catch on.

Then I realized that one of the names on the document was Chairman Arthur Leavitt (not Former Chairman), and then I checked the date: August 1998, and my spirits fell. Of the scores of reports I've casually read over the past few years, pretty well every one used four words where one would suffice. I don't think Plain English has caught on, thus far - but how about the future?

What do you think? Will Plain English ever catch on?
post #2 of 11
Not a chance. It would require thinking. People don't know the difference between "lose" and "loose" or "your" and "you're".
post #3 of 11
Good academic writers will always be succinct. People who try and replace substance with flash will always be long-winded and circuitous.
post #4 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eason View Post

Good academic writers will always be succinct. People who try and replace substance with flash will always be long-winded and circuitous.

Eason has been succint, but let me be long-winded and circuitous.

There is a viscious cycle in academic writing. Academic writing is judged by academics and grad students. Neither group wants to say they are 'too dumb' to understand what you wrote, that it is vague, ambiguous, or lacks clarity. If non-academic writing is is incomprehensible, it is a failure and rejected by the readers. If academic writing can't be comprehended, the reader is the failure (and may end up dressed down by the professor).

Legal writing is somewhere in between, and the 'plain english in legal writing' movement is very big. Personally, I love reading a florid Cardozo opinion. However, most writers would be better off to mimic the clear and basic style of Holmes.
post #5 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by willpower View Post

Not a chance. It would require thinking. People don't know the difference between "lose" and "loose" or "your" and "you're".

Add to this list "there" and "their" and "they're" that are frequently misused. Most people could use a refresher course in writing, including me. Intelligent writing is becoming a lost art, unfortunately.
post #6 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by crazyquik View Post


Eason has been succint, but let me be long-winded and circuitous.

There is a viscious cycle in academic writing. Academic writing is judged by academics and grad students. Neither group wants to say they are 'too dumb' to understand what you wrote, that it is vague, ambiguous, or lacks clarity. If non-academic writing is is incomprehensible, it is a failure and rejected by the readers. If academic writing can't be comprehended, the reader is the failure (and may end up dressed down by the professor).

Legal writing is somewhere in between, and the 'plain english in legal writing' movement is very big. Personally, I love reading a florid Cardozo opinion. However, most writers would be better off to mimic the clear and basic style of Holmes.

+++1
post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
One of the more despair-worthy moments came in class on Monday when the instructor revealed that grammar and punctuation were going to be focuses of the course. Holy Cow I learned that in grade school, what do you mean we have to cover all that again!?!?!@# Jeez.
post #8 of 11
I bought an Anglepoise lamp today. The instructions referred to an 'Allan key' and compliance with EU 'Directions'.
post #9 of 11
its / it’s

Seriously, if people can't learn the difference between those two words then there is no hope for humanity.
post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by harvey_birdman View Post

its / it’s

Seriously, if people can't learn the difference between those two words then there is no hope for humanity.

Between this and not being able to buy booze on the internet, I'm starting to think the endtimes are near.
post #11 of 11
Grammatical errors aside, I think legal compliance is a huge part of the problem. What should be a short sentence often becomes a long and convoluted paragraph once all the silly but apparently necessary disclaimers are included.
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