Tag Archives: gobbledygook

How tenants are helping us to write in plain English and kill gobbledygook

The guidelines for the 'member approved' mark

The guidelines for the ‘member approved’ mark

The building has a facility that can be used to make copies of documents.

The organisation that used that sentence will remain anonymous. Most people call a ‘facility that can be used to make copies of documents’ a photocopier.

You can’t explain why people write in that way. The truth is it is harder to write in plain English than it is to write in jargon.

An estimated one in four adults in Torfaen have poor reading skills so we set up a group who help check our documents for plain English.

It doesn’t work perfectly and we know we can do it better by making more staff aware of this servicer. The group have good fun doing the checks and are really keen to have a nose at more documents and letters before they are used.

The group is five or six tenants who meet up every month. Some of them have email and if something comes in that needs to be quickly checked they are happy to do it by email.

Some of the group were worried that they didn’t have qualifications  They don’t need qualifications to decide they don’t understand something and suggest ways to make it clearer. The one thing they have in common is a hatred of  gobbledygook and jargon.

The forum developed our magazine Community News from an A3 newsheet into a professional A4 magazine that in 2011 won a national award in Wales. The CIPR judges said: “A nice dynamic publication, simply written with engaging content for the audience.” It was a great credit to the group to be told the magazine is ‘simply written’.

At their first meeting they come up with the simple checklist above that is used to check documents.   Jargon creates phone calls and queries so they are helping colleagues cut down on questions that can come from a unclear document.

Is this a facility for making copies of a document or a photocopier?

Is this a facility for making copies of a document or a photocopier?

Photo credit- The photcopier photo was taken by Daniel O’Connor and shared under a creative commons licence.