It took the chief subeditor of an online news site to spot TheMediaOnline’s tongue-in-cheek challenge taunt that was written into the introduction of our Plain Language Challenge to you.
Thank you, Llewellyn Kriel, chief sub of the Daily Maverick, iMaverick and Free African Media for so swiftly spotting the inherent challenge in the introduction, and sending us your sample of perfectly revised copy.
“With a friendly smile …
Take this – “At The Media Online we support the move to eliminate meaningless business jargon, convoluted sentences and long, complicated words from the plethora of written material we are all faced with on a daily basis. We have in the past featured several of Caryn Gootkin’s columns on plain language in both the legal industry and general business communication.”
Tender this – “The Media Online isn’t keen on business jargon. We like simple sentences expressed in concise, clear words. That’s why we support the use of plain language – all the time. We have featured Caryn Gootkin’s work on plain language before, specifically in legal and general business communication.”
“… now I’m interested, intrigued and hooked.
“I adore the anecdote about Mark Twain sending an expensive telegram to his publisher. Twain was in London and his publisher in New York. Twain wanted to know how sales of a recently published work (the name eludes me in my dotage) were going. He sent the telegram – “?”. Understanding exactly was meant, his publisher replied – “!”.
Salutations in the name of brevity,
Daily Maverick, iMaverick & FreeAfricanMedia”
And here, just to remind contenders what it is all about, is the challenge:
Our challenge to you
We are holding a plain language challenge in the build-up to International Plain Language Day. In her previous column on bad writing and the Standard Bank brand, Gootkin gave examples of replies by a bank employee to complaints about the bank on hellopeter.com.
Rewrite these three short communications in plain language and stand a chance to win a two-day Plain Language course run by John Linnegar of McGillivrayLinnegarAssociates. To enter, please email your plain language versions to firstname.lastname@example.org by no later than 5pm on Friday October 7.
John will judge the entries and we’ll publish the winning entry, together with John’s explanation of why he chose that version, on October 13 2011.
About John Linnegar
John has been active in the publishing industry for almost 30 years, as editor, proofreader, technical writer and industrial editor. Since October 2000 he has been presenting courses on various aspects of copy editing and proofreading. John has also written a practical guide to South African English called Engleish Our Engleish: Common errors in South African English and how to resolve them.
See how many grammatical and plain language transgressions you can spot in the three letters below. In fact, point them out in the comments section below. Let’s see if we can find the simplest and most-straightforward way of conveying these messages. The best rewrites will be featured in our International Plain Language Day edition on 13 October.
“With reference to my closing call to you, there was consensus that the matter was dealt and no hesitance was evident at the time from you.
We assure you that we regard our service delivery of at most importance and will strive to deliver even better service to our customers going forward.
As previously advised, should you experience any dissatisfied service delivery, you are most welcome to contact me directly and urgent assistance shall be provided to you.”
And two more from the same writer:
Please be advised that further details have been requested from you in order for us to address your concerns.
We await you response.
With reference to our telephonic discussion earlier, we do sincerely apologise for the service break down experienced. The matter was addressed with the relevant parties in order to prevent any similar re-occurrences of this nature.
I trust you find the above in order.
Complaint Resolution Centre