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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Plain English, please

I'm encouraged by the recent news that Washington state is mandating that all state agencies communicate in plain English. I have loved writing from an early age, and I think we as a society are sorely in need of simplifying how we communicate with each other in written form.

Talk to the public as you would talk to any other person--simply, and in plain language. In the 18 months since Gov. Christine Gregoire ordered all state agencies to adopt "plain talk" principles, more than 2,000 state employees have attended classes on writing letters, announcements and documents in everyday language. So words such as abeyance, cease and utilize are out, replaced by suspension, stop and use.

"Simple changes can have profound results," said Janet Shimabukuro, manager of the Washington Department of Revenue taxpayer services program. "Plain talk isn't only rewriting, it's rethinking your approach and really personalizing your message to the audience and to the reader."

[Gov.] Gregoire says it's "a long-overdue initiative, but it's bearing fruit ... When we just talk in a way that takes our language, government language, and throws it out, and talk in language everyone understands, we get a whole lot more done."
Legalese and "corporatespeak" have really hurt our ability to communicate with each other, in my opinion. I think these forms of writing have become popular, perhaps, because of a general lack of trust between the person or organization communicating and their intended audience. I'm concerned that we've generally become more focused on covering our own asses than on sharing our thoughts and ideas. I hope that can change.

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