‘Worst Writing Awards’: Read and chuckle? Or shout in shared frustration?

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The Center for Plain Language’s worst writing awards debuted this week. And made instant headlines, with “official” statements from government and businesses that confound readers, kill credibility and worse.

You know the type. The in-flight immigration form that says “Type or print legibly.” The guidelines for students that note, “These guidelines may not actually be in effect.”  How about the bank statement that warns: “We may charge no less than the minimum interest charge if any periodic interest charge is due for a billing cycle”? (All award winners this year.)

The Center’s founder, Anetta Cheek, was a quarter-century Federal employee. “I just got so tired of all that bureaucratic and legalistic writing,” she told NPR yesterday, noting that poor communication causes needless expense and can prevent people from getting information, services and benefits they need..

“I think writing is one of those things that needs an expert,” she said. “Particularly when you have a team of technical people and legal people, a critical third member of that team is someone who knows how to write clearly. And very often that team member is not there at all.”

I say, “Here, Here!” to the Center for its effort to — as NPR put it — shame governments and companies into communicating better.”

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One Response to “‘Worst Writing Awards’: Read and chuckle? Or shout in shared frustration?”

  1. Kevin Nash Says:

    Hi Scott, great blog on “Worst Writing Awards”. Have you heard of “The Campaign for Real English” – this is a well known organization in the UK that fights gobbledygook wherever it is found – particularly in Government forms and communications. They have annual awards and give the “Golden Bull Awards” for the most egregious offenders. Check them out at:

    http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/awards/golden-bull-awards/golden-bull-winners-2009.html

    Thanks for your ongoing efforts to minimize “Golden Bull” in the USA!

    Kevin Nash

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