Praising Plain English

The Brits have taken it upon themselves to police the world’s English communications, issuing praise to citizens who speak clearly and simply, and critique for incomprehensible offenders.

They call themselves the Plain English Campaign, campaigining since 1979 “against gobbledygook, jargon and misleading public information.” With 12,000 members in 80 countries, it appears that they’re addressing a need.

The Campaign’s awards include the coveted “Plain English Awards” and the infamous “Golden Bull” and “Foot in Mouth” awards.

A standout in this year’s Golden Bull award includes this perplexing entry from the Department of Health (try reading it out loud!)

Primary secondary and tertiary prevention.
Primary prevention includes health promotion and requires action on the determinants of health to prevent disease occurring. It has been described as refocusing upstream to stop people falling in the waters of disease.

Plain English Awards recognize all aspects of communication, including writing and graphic design. For this year’s winners, visit

After suffering through hours and hours of pretentious and needlessly isoteric Neuroscience journal articles as a grad student, I’m happy to see there are people out there who value clear communication. Contrary to the notion that “plain” and “simple” means “dumbing it down,” ideas conveyed in simple terms are likely to be repeated—and repeated accurately—from one person to the next, increasing their power to influence.

So to the Brits I say “Cheerio,” good job! We’ll do our best to avoid the “Bull” in our business communications.

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One Response to “Praising Plain English”

  1. Kay Paumier says:

    Enjoyed your article. The Online Gobbledygook, Gibberish and Jargon Awards are another attempt to improve writing and communication. The awards were announced today.

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