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Weekend Picks

February 15, 2003 13:24 IST
Get rid of gobbledygook, write perfect English and get a load of wacky and useless facts

Take a look at the following sentence.

"If there are any points on which you require explanation or further particulars we shall be glad to furnish such additional details as may be required by telephone."

In simple English, the whole sentence can be written as "If you have any questions, please ring." A lot easier to read and understand.

Plain English Campaign is a group fighting for public information to be written without the gobbledygook we come across every day in forms, leaflets, agreements, contracts, etc.

"Receiving information in this form makes us feel hoodwinked, inferior, definitely frustrated and angry, and it causes a divide between us and the writer," says one of their members. Read the FAQ section for more information on the campaign. Important members are listed here

The longest sentence the campaign found was a sales contract. It ran to 513 words!

The examples section showcases long sentences converted to simpler English.  Here's an example.

Your enquiry about the use of the entrance area at the library for the purpose of displaying posters and leaflets about Welfare and Supplementary Benefit rights, gives rise to the question of the provenance and authoritativeness of the material to be displayed. Posters and leaflets issued by the Central Office of Information, the Department of Health and Social Security and other authoritative bodies are usually displayed in libraries, but items of a disputatious or polemic kind, whilst not necessarily excluded, are considered individually.

Thank you for your letter asking permission to put up posters in the entrance area of the library. Before we can give you an answer we will need to see a copy of the posters to make sure they won't offend anyone.

Simple, isn't it?

Chicago Manual of Style

Writing in simple English is not just about reducing the length of a sentence. Grammar and punctuation play an important role. The Chicago Manual of Style is one resource that contains guidelines on this topic.

It does not claim to cover every detail though. Here's what the site says: "Even at nearly 1,000 pages, The Chicago Manual of Style can't cover every detail."

If you have questions like "How many spaces do I leave after using a colon?" or "Should it be 'less' or 'fewer'?" or "Is it 'Thanks Ed.' or 'Thanks, Ed.'?"  this site provides the necessary pointers.

See also: The Elements of Style

Wacky Uses

Did you know that Coco Cola can be used to remove dirty grease stains from your clothes? And Colgate toothpaste can shine your gold jewellery and silverware?

Discover little-known uses for well-known products. The site is maintained by Joey Green, who quit his advertising job to find these weird and often unwanted facts. The site is a result of Joey's ten years of research.

Browse through weird histories and bizarre facts and contribute your own here.

1001 Useless Facts

This site was created to find funny, bizarre, interesting and useless facts from all over the world. The creators one aim - to produce a book from the collection. Add your fact to the database and if it makes the top 1001 list, your name will grace the book. You will also receive a special edition. Read their useless FAQ for more information.

A sample: "An apple, onion, and potato all have the same taste. The differences in flavor are caused by their smell. To prove this -- pinch your nose and take a bite from each. They will all taste sweet."

Another one: 'Until the 1950s, Tibetans disposed of their dead by taking the body up a hill, hacking it into little pieces, and feeding the remains to the birds.'

Useless or not, people seems to have a lot of time on their hands!


Vidya Srinivasa Rao