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Plain English champions

To mark our Crystal-clear day event in June 2000, we announced the first members of our 'hall of fame' to recognise outstanding personal contributions to the fight against gobbledygook.

Adam Shaw
Adrian Chiles
Karen Maziarz
Professor Joseph Kimble
Peter Hammonds
Sybil Law
Richard Wilson
Mark Ashworth
Emma Wagner


Adam Shaw and Adrian Chiles

Adam and Adrian are the presenters of BBC 2's Working Lunch programme. They cover all aspects of finance and business, but they explain what the numbers and statistics mean to our daily lives.

Adam's speciality is the financial markets - instead of bombarding the viewer with figures, he explains why they are going up and down and what this means for our mortgages, pensions and savings.

Adrian concentrates on making sure every guest on the show gives a straight answer, whether they bring good news or bad for consumers. Many firms with something to hide have come unstuck when they appeared on Working Lunch. But Adrian's greatest achievement was surely the day he answered back to Chrissie Maher and got away with it!

Karen Maziarz

Karen first encountered plain English in 1991 when Sun Life decided to bring Plain English Campaign trainers into the company. She persuaded the Bristol-based firm to use plain English in every department, not just customer services.

She then fought bitterly to keep the crusade for clarity going after the company was taken over by AXA. Faced with the inevitable cutbacks, she successfully argued that the costs of plain English were easily outweighed by the savings in time and money.

Karen has now been working full-time on plain English since 1998. At AXA she produced 100 documents that met the Crystal Mark standard.

Professor Joseph Kimble

Joseph Kimble is that rarest of creatures - an academic blessed with common sense! After graduating from the University of Michigan law school, he began lecturing on legal writing in the mid-1980s. He was determined to encourage his students to throw off the shackles of legalese.

Professor Kimble has had to fight many battles for plain English. He has faced many critics who claim that plain English is inaccurate and oversimplistic.

Fortunately he has continually shown the courage to challenge traditional views and never give up when somebody tells him plain-English legal writing cannot work.

Peter Hammonds

The company secretary of any organisation has plenty of work without taking on centuries of financial jargon and complex gobbledygook. And for the company secretary of a major bank, it might seem an impossible task.

Fortunately Peter Hammonds doesn't believe in the word 'impossible'. He personally led the battle to persuade NatWest Bank to embrace plain English - not just in documents for the public, but throughout the organisation.

In 1999 alone, the Crystal Mark appeared on almost five million copies of various leaflets and brochures, from customer statements to staff share schemes.

As Peter puts it, 'Effective communication is good for our business and good for everybody with a stake in our business.

(You can now read Peter's speech when he became a Plain English Champion.)

Sybil Law

The first group of Plain English Champions were all pioneers. But Sybil Law achieved a national first.

She had worked for Scottish Power since the early 1960s. In the 1990s the company decided to write its codes of practice in plain English. After seeing what Plain English Campaign could offer, Sybil convinced her bosses that she should be the company's own expert on plain English.

Three years later she became the first person in Scotland to graduate from our gruelling Diploma course. Sybil went on to train almost 400 members of staff at Scottish Power to write in plain English.

In 1997 she chaired a team that reviewed the clarity of a Government white paper on Scottish devolution.

Sybil died in 2002 and is missed by all at Plain English Campaign.

Lord Richard Wilson, former Head of the Home Civil Service

Most supporters of plain English recognise Sir Richard Wilson as a former host of the Inside Write awards.

The Inside Write awards are our annual prizes for the best use of plain English in documents written by civil servants for civil servants. But Sir Richard battled officialese 365 days a year. When he was Cabinet Secretary and head of the Civil Service, he had influence in every government department. But he is a far cry from the bureaucratic monster of Yes Minister's Sir Humphrey.

Sir Richard's main opponent wasn't any human being, but that unpredictable beast, 'the system'. He oversaw countless projects to make sure officialese never gets too strong a foothold in the Government.

Mark Ashworth

Plain English Campaign's office in Derbyshire is a beautiful place to visit for an afternoon. There aren't too many people who stay for eight days though.

As part of the Company Secretary's staff at NatWest, Mark Ashworth was responsible for arguably the biggest piece of editing we have ever done.

He arrived at our office with the bank's memorandum and articles of association, which were over a hundred years old. Mark sat down with the editors and didn't give up until they had produced a crystal-clear document.

Mark is now carrying on the plain-English fight at financing firm Lombards, but he will always be known at Plain English Campaign as the man who proved that nothing is impossible.

Emma Wagner

The staff of the European Commission's translation department often have to take waffle in one language and attempt to translate it clearly into around a dozen other languages.

Luckily for the people of Europe, the plain-English movement has its own representative on the continent. Emma Wagner, part of the translation department, launched her own crusade for clarity - 'Fight the Fog'.

The initiative officially ran only for the six months in 1998 when Britain held the presidency of the Commission. But the group's series of seminars and lectures proved so successful that they have continued advising and encouraging those European politicians and civil servants who realise plain English can inspire plain French, plain Italian and plain Belgian.

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