When I grew up I had four besties. Together we were just like Blyton’s Famous Five. Sure, we didn’t roam the countryside solving mysteries and capturing villains. Golly gosh no! But we did freely roam our cul-de-sac for hours enjoying jolly adventures — at least until dinner time.
After university, we all dispersed into very different jobs — one into journalism, one into strategic planning, one into advertising, one into corporate comms, and I moved from solicitor to information designer.
But in the last five years or so, something funny has happened: all our job descriptions are starting to look the same. Disciplines are merging. My friends and I are doing similar tasks and use the same skillsets.
This week is New Zealand's unofficial plain language week. On Thursday we'll celebrate the winners of the Writemark Plain English Awards, 2014. Top prize is for promoting clear communication throughout an entire organisation. That's not an easy job. Elsewhere, gobbledygook from government agencies continues to gush. The wells of snake oil never run dry.
The Complete Plain Words is the UK equivalent of The Elements of Style. It is the biggest-ever bestseller from Her Majesty's Stationery Office, and has never been out of print since 1954.
The first edition in 1948 was a radical call to clarity from a top civil servant. Anything written by Sir Ernest Gowers, formerly Private Secretary to Lloyd George, had the ring of authority.