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  • Two suggestions on your plain English page, where you say:

    Welcome to our plain English page.

    During the month of December, we’ll be discussing the topic of plain English.

    On this page you will find a growing list of resources regarding this topic

    First, try just “During December” — “the month of” is redundant. Second, try “about” instead of “regarding” to improve the tone. Also, try just “we’ll discuss plain English” – it’s shorter and more direct. In other words, more in line with plain English.

  • Good point, John: if we’re criticizing others for not being ‘Plain’, it behoves us to set a good example (and maybe that includes not using words like ‘behove’).
    Our corpus data shows a strong preference for the simpler ‘During [month]’ over ‘During the month of …’ (with about 12,000 examples of the first and only 800 of the second) – so most speakers and writers instinctively opt for the simpler formulation. ‘Resources about’ and ‘resources on’ (more frequent) sound equally OK to me, and, I agree, preferable to ‘regarding’. Where I’d disagree is on the use of ‘we’ll be discussing’, which strikes me as more appropriate here (but I’d need to do some contrastive analysis on corpus data to see whether this hunch has any basis). But your Comment raises a really interesting question about what we mean by ‘Plain English’: the avoidance of gobbledegook is one thing, but stripping the message down to its bare essentials – effectively, a ‘utilitarian’ approach to language – may be another. What do you (and others) think?

  • Hi Michael: I like “behoves” — it adds color. And no need to strip to essentials (bare?). But if you have words that do nothing but add bulk, you end up with flabby writing. Every word should do something (convey meaning) more than just take up space. So “to” instead of “in order to”, for example. Or “a $50 cheque” instead of “a cheque in the amount of $50”. I think you can make a strong case for economic use of words as part of PL.

    Thanks for the interesting data.