There are many lessons we can learn from using simple English. First, even government staff of the United Kingdom are given by department chiefs lessons and guidelines on how to write correspondences. In 2011, then secretary of the transport department, Justine Greening, instructed the people under her department to read an essay on grammar. In 2012, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson draft a set of guidelines on how clauses and semi-colons should be used by officials. And this year, Education Secretary Michael Gove has instructed the people under his department to use simple English when writing to parents.
There are still many English language lessons we can learn from the Education Secretary. He is known for his love of plain English. Many teachers opposed him when he started making huge revisions in the curriculum and aim to revive the traditional spelling and grammar tests in schools. He is a former journalist and studied English at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University.
In the latest move of a UK department chief about English writing, the purpose is to make letters easier to understand, especially to parents and students who come from poorer backgrounds. The lesson we can learn here is that of identifying our audience and making our language fit them. Express, rather than to impress. The goal of writing to the parents is to communicate information which are of utmost importance to their children’s education. The specific guidelines given by the education chief to his staff from which we can learn include:
(1) think whether mothers could easily comprehend each sentence;
(2) think of them first and not sound being self-important;
(3) use direct, clear and vigorous language;
(4) Introduce and talk about only one idea in each paragraph;
(5) be more sympathetic in their tone of writing;
(6) read aloud what one has written and
(7) minimise adjectives.
The overall strategy is to be concise, polite and precise. Conciseness is a form of politeness, Mr. Gove says. He wants teachers and education staff to see to it that the spelling of the names of the students and their parents are correct. For the secretary, the more careful you are in writing letters and communications which are pleasing to the eyes and minds of the readers, the more respect and compliment you give them. If education personnel follow the guidelines, mistakes like inflated political rhetoric or giving general formulaic replies will be avoided.
What to Read
We can also get some pointers on authors and writers to read from Mr. Gove and his policy. He even suggests that officials should also read the works of great writers like George Orwell, Jane Austen, George Eliot and Evelyn Waugh. He also suggested modern prose writers who have clarity like Matthew Parris who is a former member of the British Parliament and writer at The Times and journalist Christopher Hitchens. Mr. Gove’s overall policy includes making education more rigorous and working on changing the English curriculum so that more classic literature will be part of the lessons pupils will have to study.
I am a person who loves food, sports and music. Writing is also one of my loves, it ceased to be passion and became my profession. I also coach personal statement, letter and assignment writing.