- Plain English
- Plain English1. The expression plain English, meaning ‘English that is clear and easy to understand’, goes back to the 15c, and was the term often used in the titles of the first dictionaries that appeared during the 17c; Robert Cawdrey, for example, described the contents of his 1604 Table Alphabeticall as listing hard words ‘with the interpretation thereof by plaine English words’. The current UK Plain English campaign was started in the 1970s and grew out of the consumer movement and the demand for fair dealing. It may be seen as belonging to the tradition of the work done by Sir Ernest Gowers in publications such as Plain Words (1948, later The Complete Plain Words, 1954 and later editions) and in the material he added to the second edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage (1965). A similar movement exists in the US, including the Plain English Forum set up in the 1980s.2. Plain English insists on clarity as well as accuracy and wages war on convoluted, obfuscating language typified by the use of such words as aforesaid, in the event of, incumbent on, and thereto. It argues that inflated statements such as Encashment of a foreign currency may incur a processing fee may be stated more effectively as We may charge you for changing your foreign money. In some contexts, however, the need for precision can require the use of special terminology; this aspect is discussed in the entries for legalese and officialese. See also Martin Cutts, The Oxford Guide to Plain English (2nd edition, 2004).
Modern English usage. 2014.