Speketh so Pleyne

Following a subtle inner prompting, which went something like “you could put more effort into your writing Mugo”, I took the plunge and bought a book at Chapters with my gift card. It is called Oxford Guide to Plain English, a compelling read and chock full of easy to digest instructions. Here is a definintion of plain English writing, quoted from the book:

The writing and setting out of essential information in a way that gives a co-operative, motivated person a good chance of understanding it as first reading, and in the same sense that the writer meant it to be understood.

Who hasn’t read an official document of some kind and ended up non the wiser? The plea for plain English has been around for a long time. Quoting from the book again:

In the fourteenth century Chaucer had one of his characters demand:

Speketh so pleyne at this time, I yow preye
That we may undersonde what ye seye.
My Master, Rev. Jiyu-Kennett, was very keen on the accurate use of words and encouraged us to choose them with great care when speaking and writing. And Rev. Master Daizui, the former Head of the Order (OBC), a real wordsmith if ever there was one wrote ‘Buddhism From Within’ which he would refer to as Buddhism in plain English. So I’m developing a deeper appreciation for the need to choose words wisely and to string them together more mindfully.
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4 thoughts on “Speketh so Pleyne”

  1. In the very dim past when I used to work in local government in England my boss used to give all his new staff a copy of “The Complete Plain Words” by Sir Ernest Gowers. Back then if I had nothing else to do I’d spend ten minutes reading a scttion.

    He was one of those distinguished liberal educators of the 1950’s and he wrote that book with public servants in mind. It’s still a treat to read his careful measured sentences.

    I really enjoy writing a blog these days, and I find the more I do it the more ‘fluent’ it gets, like talking to a friend (which of course very often it is).

  2. “Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue.” That line from Hamlet heads a fine review in the Financial Times today of recordings of Shakespeare from Laurence Olivier/Corialanus, Peggy Ashcroft/Queen Margaret and so on, now collected on CD. Technology has its good points!

    “Be not too tame neither; but let your own discretion be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature.”

    Contrast that with the “revenue attrition” in the proposed merger of two large disc-drive companies. I presume they mean “lose money”. Were it not so serious, one could also smile at “extraordinary rendition” as a similar abuse of a fine language.

    Chaucer, where are you?

    Thanks Reverend Mugo for keeping me focused.

  3. Strange to say, but we were talking about this very subject at Lancaster’s Meditation group meeting a couple of weeks ago.
    There is an old Yorkshire saying:
    “Say what you mean
    and mean what you say.”
    Yorkshiremen are noted for plain speaking.

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