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Plain English Campaign

 

The Company's Mission

Plain English Campaign (PEC) is a commercial editing and training firm based in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1979 by Chrissie Maher, the company positions itself as a leader in plain language advocacy. Often described in the media as a pressure group, PEC encourages organisations to use simple, understandable language for public information, which can include contracts, terms and conditions and bills. Plain English is defined as "language that the intended audience can understand and act upon from a single reading".

PEC has worked all over the world for companies and organisations including British Gas, British Telecom, Irish Life, Telefónica O2 and the World Bowls association. It has also worked with the majority of UK council and government departments. Many UK forms and bills carry the Crystal Mark, including the British Passport application form.

PEC provides a document certification service to organisations, which allows the organisation to use the widely-recognised crystal mark on the document to certify that it is written in plain English. The campaign makes use of the word gobbledygook to refer to the kind of tortuous and confusing English it is campaigning against, and every year a Golden Bull award is made for the worst example. There is also a Foot in Mouth award for "a baffling quote by a public figure".

In 2003 it drew widespread criticism when it gave its Foot In Mouth award to the US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, for this statement: "Reports that say something hasnít happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns ó the ones we donít know we donít know". The campaign commented: "We think we know what he means. But we donít know if we really know". 

Journalists and academics soon leapt to Rumsfeld's defence, saying that he was talking sense, moreover sense expressed in the simplest words available, ones that the Plain English Campaign should have been applauding, not criticising. Mr Rumsfeld's statement might need work to appreciate, because he was talking philosophy. As one commentator said "perhaps the campaign only believes in plain thinking". 

Many legal and governmental organisations in the UK now use plain English in their public documents. The language used often resembles special English and has been criticised as over-simplified. This points to the challenge facing those who communicate with the public: how to get their ideas across in plain language without losing force or precision.

 

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Have you ever wanted to use meaningless, empty phrases that make it look like you know what you are talking about? Simply click on the button below this paragraph and a random piece of business jargon will appear in the box. If you need more than one buzzphrase, just click the button again and again.

Courtesy of Plain English Campaign