New Zealand’s Plain Language Bill will require government communications to the public be “clear, concise, well-organized, and audience-appropriate.” For the country’s anti-gibberish brigade, it’s a victory: they say clear language is a matter of social justice and a democratic right.
“People living in New Zealand have a right to understand what the government is asking them to do, what their rights are, and what they’re entitled to from the government,” said Member of Parliament Rachel Boyack, who introduced the bill.
Advocates of the bill say there’s vast room for improvement in New Zealand’s government communications. The country even has an annual plain language award that includes a “best sentence transformation” trophy.
Unclear sentences are more than an aesthetic concern, says Lynda Harris, who launched the award and directs plain language consultancy Write Ltd. “Government communications decide the most intimate and important parts of people’s lives: their immigration status, divorce papers, entitlements to welfare payments, or ability to build a home.”
“When governments communicate in ways that people don’t understand, it can lead to people not engaging with services that are available to them, losing trust in government, and not being able to participate fully in society,” Boyack said. “Those most affected are people who speak English as a second language, have not attended university, have disabilities, or are elderly.”
The bill is not universally supported. Those in opposition argue it will add further layers of bureaucracy and cost, in the form of plain-language-monitoring officials, without actually improving communication with the public.
But advocates say plain language is a boon for accountability as well as comprehension. “Language is a vehicle. It’s just a means to an end,” Harris said. “It should tell people what happened, who was responsible, and what can be done.”
Read Full Article from The Guardian (09/21/22)
Author: McClure, Tess
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