This blog shares some of our thoughts about plain language, and the latest discussions about plain English and clear design in New Zealand, and around the world.

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29 August 2011

Press for the printable word

Last month posted 13 flash cards of ‘Printable words the New York Times expected you to know on Sunday, July 24th.’

Let’s leave aside the obvious question: You mean there were unprintable words the paper wanted you to know? picked 10 words, including ‘meslimatic’, ‘souse’, and ‘nonpareil’. Yes, it did seem the ‘Gray Lady’ was without equal in asking her readers to have a dictionary nearby as they read. Not to feel ‘schadenfreude’ (another gem on the list) for the New York Times … but I wondered whether other newspapers were in the habit of using such words regularly?

So I did a quick review of the Monday 15 August issue of The New Zealand Herald. And what did I find? An article about a little adidas public relations problem, with embroiled, frontfoot, and alignment. Yes, I know the last two are quite witty. But the opinion pieces had proximate, malaise, vindicating, and coalesced. Maybe a word in the ears of future contributors will meld mind to pen.

And if a writer must use a complex phrase about childcare or economics, why not explain it in context? For ‘wraparound services’ , why not a process to care for youths with complex needs? And isn’t ‘taking a gradualist approach’ merely saying ‘it’s slow going’? Well, articles with this type of phrase certainly are.
And why do we still see ‘in order to’ when ‘to’ will do? It’s not that I am wishing to ‘carp’ or to be ‘sardonic’ (another two from the New York Times), or even be Seussian, but this really will not do.

I know we expect a broadsheet to be wordier than a tabloid, but with less time to get the facts and more sources for news, shouldn’t content be clearer?

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