Archive | Plain English writing

Where words go when they die

The current online version of the Macquarie Dictionary lists 138,000 words and 210,000 different definitions. According to an online survey of 2 million (admittedly self-selected) people, the average adult has a vocabulary of 20,000–35,000 words. Which begs the question, what happens with the rest? Some words are part of industry jargon or have a technical […]

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Is English becoming toxic?

Despite a global push for the use of plain English to boost reader understanding and accessibility, recent language trends and buzzwords suggest that English is actually becoming less accessible for the average user. The desire to be avant-garde, politically correct (i.e. inclusive and inoffensive) or earnestly non-committal (particularly popular in the political arena) is seeing […]

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The real magic of a letter to Santa

As Christmas carols fill the air everywhere from shopping centres to temporary stages on local football fields, those of us who celebrate Christmas are busy planning and carrying out our festive season traditions. The tradition of children writing a letter to Santa Claus dates back more than 150 years and, perhaps surprisingly, is still going […]

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The genius of George Orwell

Back when I was a university student contemplating a topic for my English Literature Honours thesis, I thought it might be interesting to examine the early works of George Orwell, one of my favourite writers at the time. After twelve months of immersing myself in biographies, literacy criticism, opinion pieces and pretty much the entire […]

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BBC Subcommittee on Words goes rogue and has to be shut down

At the birth of British broadcasting, in the 1920s, radio presenters spoke with a range of accents and dialects, representing the considerable diversity of the British Isles. The BBC’s first managing director wanted to standardise usage and pronunciation, and set up the BBC Advisory Committee on Spoken English, chaired by playwright George Bernard Shaw. The […]

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Leading the reading: wayfinding in document design

‘Wayfinding refers to information systems that guide people through a physical environment and enhance their understanding and experience of the space.’ Wayfinding is especially important in complex built environments such as airports, hospitals and universities. While you’ve probably noticed the more obvious examples of wayfinding – maps and signs – you may have been gently […]

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