Plain English Awards

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The worst forms of jargon and gobbledygook have been highlighted in this year’s Plain English Awards’ hall of shame. But how easy is it to boil down corporate-speak to a few pithy words? See the examples below, then have a go.

Football has long been a fertile ground for pedants hunting English language misuse, although Ron Atkinson no longer sprinkles commentary with his own dialect, Ronglish.

Now Steve McClaren has joined an illustrious band of previous winners of the Plain English Campaign’s (PEC) Foot in Mouth award, such as Donald Rumsfeld, Boris Johnson and Naomi Campbell.

Translation UK

The former England boss won it for saying, of Wayne Rooney: “He is inexperienced, but he’s experienced in terms of what he’s been through.”

He’s an easy target, says the PEC, and press conferences can be pressured situations where the tongue can easily go astray. Less forgivable, though, is the bureaucratic language and legalese beloved of big companies.

But how easy is it to reduce complicated corporate-speak to a pithy sentence? Here’s your chance to have a go.

To get a taste for it – see how plain English campaigner Ben Beer has distilled three of this year’s worst offenders to a single-line translation. Then, have a go at translating the final paragraph yourself.


“Passenger shoe repatriation area only”

Plain English Campaign translation: Get your shoes back here.

BAA removed the sign on Monday and gave this statement: “We are in the business of repatriation at Gatwick Airport, admittedly more often through arriving passengers than repatriating shoes.”


“The Carrier shall not be liable for injury or damage to or destruction or loss of the Goods or any other property arising out of or incidental to or in connection with or occurring during the provision of the Services or for the mis-delivery or non-delivery of the Goods and whether or not caused or contributed to by the default (including negligence) of the Carrier or any agent, servant or officer of the Carrier or any other person entitled to the benefit of these conditions.”

Plain English Campaign translation: If anything happens, it’s not our fault.


“Every Autumn a combination of leaves on the line, atmospheric conditions and prevailing damp conditions lead to a low adhesion between the rail head and the wheel which causes services to be delayed or even cancelled. NI Railways are committed to minimising service delays, where we can, by implementing a comprehensive low adhesion action programme.”

Plain English Campaign translation: We’ll really try not to cancel any more trains.

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