Plain bad language – the winners

Posted by on December 09, 2009

© GettyWell, it’s over. The Plain English Campaign 2009 awards were announced yesterday, and one of the winners was Lord Mandelson. Having left the cabinet twice in less than ideal circumstances, Mandelson is back in a position of some authority, and is seen as the government’s Great Communicator. But this observation, referring to the MPs’ expenses scandal, earned him the Foot in Mouth award:

Perhaps we need not more people looking round more corners but the same people looking round more corners more thoroughly to avoid the small things detracting from the big things the Prime Minister is getting right.

Congratulations, Lord Mandelson.

From the US, American Airlines walked away with a Golden Bull award for having sent a “Property irregularity receipt” to a passenger whose luggage had been lost. We have no information as to the whereabouts of the passenger’s sense of humour, but I imagine it would have come in useful.

The UK Department of Health also picked up a Golden Bull for this observation on disease prevention:

Primary prevention includes health promotion and requires action on the determinants of health to prevent disease occurring. It has been described as refocusing upstream to stop people falling in the waters of disease.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to read that a second time just in case you misread it the first time. So here it is again. Read and marvel:

Primary prevention includes health promotion and requires action on the determinants of health to prevent disease occurring. It has been described as refocusing upstream to stop people falling in the waters of disease.

But before you run away with the idea that Plain English Campaign is solely about putting the boot in, they also recognize good practice. The Birmingham Mail received an award for being Best Regional Newspaper; the Forestry Commission’s pamphlet about Lyme disease won an Inside Write award, as did the Royal Navy for its magazine Navy News: “a good example of plain English written for an intended audience.” And an award for being one of the clearest documents of the year went to the World Cancer Research Fund for a leaflet on breast cancer. You can see all the awards on the Plain English Campaign website.

And finally, back across the Atlantic, we find a tax form which the Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service sends to suppliers who are not based in the US. Obviously, if you’re a supplier and you’re not based in the US you’ll have been wondering just what kind of entity you are. A hybrid entity, perhaps? Or maybe a reverse hybrid entity? Don’t worry – the form makes things crystal clear with these two definitions:

Hybrid entity – a hybrid entity is any person (other than an individual) that is treated as fiscally transparent in the US…
Reverse hybrid entity – a reverse hybrid entity is any person (other than an individual) that is not fiscally transparent under US tax law principles…

See? Simples!

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