So, it was the first of my plain English talks today. I have spent the last week working on my script and finding all the right examples, both on how to do things and how not to. I seem to have become the council's expert on writing in plain language and it's quite flattering when people much more senior come to me and ask how I would put a particular phrase or idea across.
I'd had a few trial runs and fine-tuned what I was going to say over the past couple of days, so I felt ready. My talk was the first in a series of events over two weeks on various topics around the subject of Equalities Good Practice. Invitations and notices were sent out to all county council employees and officers and all were welcome to come along.
At about a quarter to twelve I went down to the committee room to make last minute preparations and make sure everything was ready. There was a meeting going on in the room so I couldn't just barge in. The two guys from the equalities team who had invited me to do the talk turned up just after I got there and we waited for the meeting to wind up. Eventually it did. By now it was five past twelve and we had to get the room ready. When we had done that it was ten past twelve and I should have been in full swing by then. Still, it didn't matter because no-one had turned up. We waited until a quarter past twelve and still no-one had appeared, so we decided to knock it on the head and go back to our offices.
It seems that I am not a very popular draw. It seems that everyone is so well-versed in plain English that they don't need me to tell them about it. I read some of the things they write and I know that's not the case. It seems that apathy is the main driving force in local government. I was going to talk about Terry Pratchett's book, 'Truckers' and how the nomes take the signs they see at face value, how they think that fire buckets are buckets of fire. I was going to make it funny and give examples of management speak that no-one could ever possibly understand. I was going to give good advice about how to write and the sort of language you should use if you want people to understand what you mean. I was going to quote Einstein and George Eliot, and even L'Oreal. I was going to be good, dammit!
I'm down to do the same talk next Wednesday. Wish me luck and a crowd that doesn't interrupt, perhaps a crowd just like today's. I want to do my best but I can only do that if people are prepared to listen.