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Plain English campaign news articles

Lords and Commons talk the talk

Plain English Campaign are celebrating an Easter bonus with the launch of not just one inquiry into government communications, but a second which will look into how Parliament connects with the public.

The first public inquiry, by the Public Administration Select Committee, is calling for examples of good and bad government documents, while the House of Lords Information Committee are continuing their Modernisation Report into improving how Parliament connects with the public.

Marie Clair, spokesperson for Plain English Campaign, says, “People are crying out for information that they can read, understand and act upon, within a single reading. These desperate times are revealing the extent of poor communications in every part of our society. These inquiries are a two-way process. Send us your examples and opinions on both inquiries. This is an opportunity for people to show why the elderly can’t claim the heating benefits they rightly deserve, why families are losing their homes because of jargon-filled credit agreements and why, with over 2 million unemployed, employers are struggling to find applicants with basic literacy skills.”

Chrissie Maher, founder of Plain English Campaign, has splashed out on Easter eggs for all the Campaign staff in celebration of the Parliamentary landmark.

Chrissie says, “The Campaign has been on the case of both Parliament and Government from the start. Education and legislation in plain English are what we need to encourage the use of crystal-clear language in all public information, both written and spoken. It’s down to each of us to be clear and honest. In 2009 I want to see our 646 MPs reminded that plain English is what their public needs. And, every young person has the right to learn about the damage of unnecessary jargon and gobbledygook, before the rot of poor communication sets in for another generation.”


Public Administration Select Committee calls for people to send in examples of the good, the bad and the ugly of official language

Download the House of Commons Select Committee on Modernisation’s report, Connecting Parliament with the Public published in 2004 from the parliamentary stationery office (PDF, 410Kb).

The House of Lords Information Committee's Call For Evidence. This committee has also launched a web forum and a Youtube group.

Comments from Chrissie Maher, founder of the Plain English Campaign.

The rest of the world sit up and take notice

After 30 years I never thought I’d see the day when both the House of Commons and the House of Lords are concerned about plain English!

When I stood on Parliament Square with a hand shredder, surrounded by empty cardboard boxes and many policemen, I feared that I could only end up in jail for protesting at government jargon in public information. I would never have dreamed that one day, just one day, people at the top would listen to the humble grass roots. For a mother of four it wasn’t right to have to plough through their maze of words to get action.

It only goes to show that if you honestly persist and you know in your heart what you’re asking for is right, then people in high places will listen. I’m only sorry it’s taken a lifetime, my lifetime. Well, they say that the wheels of government move slowly, but they get there in the end.. phew!


Note to all Editors: it would be helpful if you could advise listeners, viewers or readers that we welcome nominations for Plain English Awards or Golden Bulls. Please send them to

Plain English Campaign is an independent, self-funding pressure group based in New Mills, High Peak. Since our humble beginnings we have grown to become the biggest plain-language group in the world with around 50 staff. We have had incredible success in persuading many UK and worldwide organisations to communicate with the public in plain language.

We take up grievances of people who have been baffled by bureaucratic language, small print and the legalese of official information. We promote plain language by presenting awards, hosting international conferences and funding research projects.

Each year, we present awards to those organisations who we judge to have produced the best and worst examples of English. The infamous ‘Golden Bull’ and ‘Foot in Mouth’ awards inject a sense of mischief and humour into the proceedings. We accept entries from any individual or organisation. However, for obvious reasons we cannot give awards to documents or websites that our staff have worked on or edited.

We fund our activities by offering a variety of commercial services such as training and editing.

We have several people who can provide interviews or quotes for you to use.

For more information please contact or call our Press Officer, Marie Clair on 07875 000175 or 01298 815118. Our studio ISDN line number is 01298 812326. Our postal address is Press Office, Hillside Farm, Combs, High Peak SK23 9UT.

Calling for your government gobbledygook!

Tax returns, benefit claim forms, passport forms - all government documents created to help us..... or drive us mad!

We want your good, bad and downright ugly examples of government documents.

Read more: Calling for your government gobbledygook!

Liverpool well-rooted in plain English

Plain English Campaign have been packing their bags in excitement, ready for a return to their roots in Liverpool to celebrate the Capital of Culture. The exhibition at Liverpool Town Hall will be opened by Lord Mayor Steve Rotheram with VIP guest John Barnes and other guest involvement from local musicians Young Kof and MC Inferno, and authors, Lucy van Amerongen, Caroline Taggart, Steve Colgan, and Peter Grant who all acknowledge the benefits of the appropriate message for the intended audience.

Public viewing of the exhibition will take place from Tuesday 21 October. Plain English Campaign are encouraging the school leavers and young people of Liverpool to use plain English to communicate and refresh their language skills with free training sessions during the week.

We are also running a competition for young people in Liverpool to create a song, poem or piece of prose about their rights to clear communication.

The event recognises and applauds the efforts of the people of Liverpool in building what has become a worldwide cause. Giving the public the right to information they can understand and act upon for assist their daily lives was a fight that started almost 30 years ago with the UK’s first community newspaper in Tuebrook and now more people everywhere, are empowered by refusing to deal with jargon and gobbledygook.

Chrissie Maher, OBE and founder of the campaign sends this message to the people of Liverpool, in particular our next generation, “Never let anyone take your rights away by blinding you with words. We all have a responsibility to do our best to understand, that’s why the basics of education are so vital. Those people telling you that spelling doesn’t matter, they have jobs. Don’t let them fool you into thinking that gobbledygook will hide their own ignorance and mistakes – the credit crunch has shown what lack of understand and unclear communications can do. Let’s arm ourselves with solid, plain speaking, that’s something in which the people of Liverpool are well rooted.”

Plain English Campaign have a “Spelling is Important” petition running on their website for all people to add their voice. This will be presented at the Houses of Parliament on 1 July 2009.

Who has the right to write the rites, Dr Wright or Dr Smith?

Plain English Campaign has today condemned comments made by a senior university lecturer that bad spelling in student essays should be accepted. Founder Chrissie Maher OBE, described Dr Ken Smith’s article in the Times Higher Education magazine as ‘madness’.

Commenting from the campaign’s headquarters in Derbyshire, Chrissie said “It sickens me to consider we would allow anyone the liberty to destroy our heritage just because they are fed up with seeing it misused. Instead do something about it, deal with the real problem, stop the rot! Put it right from the start. How can we expect children to learn basic spelling and grammar if senior educationalists are saying it doesn’t matter? It’s absolute madness.”

Dr Smith, a lecturer in criminology at Buckinghamshire New University, suggested that students and lecturers should be ‘given a break’ and allow misspellings of words such as ‘judgment’, ‘twelfth’, and ‘embarrassed’.

Plain English Campaign, which fights for clear communication in all public documents, recently criticised the news that spelling mistakes and grammatical errors were resulting in higher marks in Standard Assessment Tests (SATs).

Tesco's checkout signs

Over the last few days there has been a lot of press coverage about Tesco's new checkout signs. Some of this coverage suggested that the retailer chose the wording of their new signs based on our recommendation. However, this is not the case.

Read more: Tesco's checkout signs

Wells blasted by supporters of good spelling

Chrissie Maher OBE, founder of Plain English Campaign has come out with all guns blazing at the Spelling Society, following comments made by its president John Wells. On Tuesday he said that the ‘apostrophe is a waste of time’, and that there are more important things to do than worry about correct spelling.

Read more: Wells blasted by supporters of good spelling

Send us your small print

Plain English Campaign is supporting the Small Print Bill being processed through Parliament by Nick Palmer MP who is calling for 'a minimum font size in certain documents, including those relating to advertising and contracts; and for connected purposes'. Our exhibition will take place at the Jubilee Room at Westminster on 17 November between 2pm and 6pm and will be attended by MPs and invited industry leaders who have an interest in promoting clear communications.

Read more: Send us your small print

Plain English Campaign awards for MPs

We invite all MPs and their staff to send us their nominations for the best (clearest) and worst (most ridden with gobbledygook) documents that they have seen this year in Parliament. A shortlist of nominations will be announced on Monday 17 November, in the Jubilee Room, Westminster, and the authors of the winning documents will be presented with an award at the Plain English Awards on Tuesday 9 December.

Read more: Plain English Campaign awards for MPs

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