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Warriors for plain English


Chrissie Maher is the grandmother of eleven and works out of a small farm in the hills outside Manchester. Since 1979 she has been battling for plain English in government and finance with the Plain English Campaign. "Language has been misused," she told the Wall Street Journal, "and has contributed to the economic disaster".

In the 1980s Maher's campaign forced the government to rewrite thousands of indecipherable forms. 'Golden Bulls' were awarded to various worthy recipients - to Gatwick Airport for its sign "Passenger shoe repatriation area only", for instance. This year's bullish front-runner is a 102-word sentence from the police chiefs. The government's use of the word investment to mean spending should be in the running, too.

It's difficult to win the war against deliberate obfuscation and falsehoods. Chrissie Maher and the Plain English Campaign battle on.

We can't find Utter Drivel in print in Britain, but we read it in the papers all the time.

UPDATE: Margaret Griffiths of the Campaign writes to say that Utter Drivel (1998) is out of print, but they have many current examples up on the Plain English site.

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