Archive for Thursday, June 4, 1998

IN ENGLISHPLEASE

June 4, 1998

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Trying to translate government documents into simple English won't be an easy job, but any improvement will be appreciated.

Other jargon-laden businesses and organizations should take a lesson from the federal government's effort to translate its communications into plain English.

Vice President Al Gore Monday announced a campaign against indecipherable government language. Active voice will be preferred over passive and ``short is better.'' Gore said government rules that now take 72 words to explain could be reduced to six words. A phrase like ``means of egress'' could be translated into something easier to understand, like ``exit routes.''

Considerable attention has been focused in recent years on producing government publications in Spanish and other foreign languages to make them more accessible to Americans. Ironically, many English-speaking Americans would find documents printed in Spanish about as easy to understand as those written in the current convoluted government-ese.

All Americans should applaud the latest effort to simplify government language, and other entities -- such as schools and local governments -- should follow suit. The effort will save time and money for both the authors and the readers.

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