In all media training workshops I have run, I have always stipulated the very real need for people to speak in plain English – mainly so they can broaden their reach but also so they don’t bore or turn off the viewers, listeners or readers. Now, I see the British Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has ordered public servants in his department to write in plain English.
Gove, a former journalist himself, has introduced 10 guidelines to get bureaucrats to write in language that their mothers would understand. He said officials should introduce one idea per paragraph, use a sympathetic tone – and make sure they spell the recipient’s name correctly.
I say it’s not just bureaucrats who need such advice. Certainly in my experience with the corporate world and training their executives to handle media interviews, it’s a far more widespread problem – generally concentrated in middle management with less senior and more senior executives prone to speaking like the rest of us do, in plain English.