Paul - who brings friendly nonsense (blur_kiwi) wrote,
Paul - who brings friendly nonsense

Plain language at work - one of many pearls of wisdom to come.

I love playing with words, and I love using words in an unusual and interesting way. But I also want to be understood. I have to wear two wordy hats – the one I use when I’m writing for myself, trying to be creative and having fun, and then there’s the one I have to wear at work where it has to be all straightforward, open and easy to follow. I try to make my creative stuff like that too, but I know I make the rules there; I don’t make the rules in my work use of language. But I do have to enforce them, which can be fun sometimes.

This is a genuine email that I received at work.

Here’s the background. There were problems with the computer system – there often are. Some people couldn’t get into their emails, some people couldn’t open Word, and then they would be able to but couldn’t save anything. The next day it would happen to a different group of people. This went on for a few days.

Then this email came out, sent to everyone in the building. Given the problem, I would question whether an email was the right way of telling people, but…..

“In conjunction with Third Party Supplier and Consultancy our ICT Network Services Communications team are continuing to proceed with further analysis, fault finding and eradication of any possible failure that may reside within the configuration or item on the network which is still continuing to cause internal County Hall network interruption problems similar to yesterday.

“I will of course inform you when a resolution has been found. However and regrettably at this present moment I cannot give an exact time of fault resolution.

“Due to the intermittent nature of the fault it is difficult to say categorically, how many customers are affected.

“Therefore and once again, I apologise for the inconvenience of non availability of service to customers who are experiencing problems.”

Now that’s a really wordy way of telling people what’s going on. In fact it makes the message almost unintelligible, and probably doesn’t tell them what’s going on, at least not in a way they’ll easily understand. I’m sure the person who wrote felt they had to use language like that because it’s what was expected of them. My argument, and the thing I have to enforce, is that it makes more sense to give people a message they’ll actually be able to follow.

Here’s my version.
“We know there is a problem. We are working on it but we don’t know how long it will take to put it right. We will tell you when the problem is solved. Sorry.” 

It’s going to be fun getting these techy people to write properly in English.

Tags: words

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