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Linguistic bottlenecks.

Byline: By Denis Kilcommons

The Plain Language Commission is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a competition to find the worst offender of writing gobbledook over the last 25 years.

Martin Cutts, who co-founded the organisation, believes the campaign for people and organisations to use plain English has been successful.

"Modern forms and leaflets are usually much clearer than in 1979, though often depressingly long. The worst mumbo-jumbo is in legal notices, contracts and regulations."

He has chosen a top 10 of the worst practitioners he has encountered in that time and he urges the public to vote for their three favourites via the Commission website <>.

They include contributions from Chancellor Gordon Brown, former US Vice President Dan Quayle, a train operator, councils, Cambridge University and British Rail's catering division.

The creators of Hammersmith and Fulham Council's district plan, for instance, rejected an everyday word in favour of planning jargon when they noted:

"Line 5. Delete Bottlenecks", insert "Localised Capacity Deficiencies".

Alexander Haig, the former US Secretary of State, is cited for the way he refsued a request for a pay rise by a subordinate:

"Because of the fluctuational pre-disposition of your position's productive capacity as juxtaposed to government standards, it would be momentarily injudicious to advocate an increment."

Even Justin Timberlake sneaks into the list. He exposed Janet Jackson's star encrusted nipple on American television and described the incident as merely: "A wardrobe malfunction."

And then there is St Helens Play Council who defined play as:

"The freely chosen and personally directed enactment of a group of non-goal orientated behaviours which become progressively more complex with experience and which in themselves facilitate the development of an equivalent range of tools (ie skill and abilities) without which any species evolution cannot continue."

Well, I'm glad that's clear.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Aug 5, 2004
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