Validating sin

The conditions of chapters 13 and 14 shall with modifications deemed as necessary extend and apply to and in relation to this Section and others, without affect to the aforementioned in the sense of its generality, in particular with the modification that any reference to plastic or plastic products shall be construed as a reference to rubber products also in full. For those out there who practise these verbal gymnastics I have ‘benchmarked’ your attainment and have decided not to ‘calendar’ you a meeting, so ‘access’ your information on your way out my door before I ‘task’ you a spanking.

Mind you, it can sometimes work, for example, US visionary Buckminster Fuller once described, “God as a verb not a noun, proper or improper”.

This enemy of clarity (and friend of the obscurantist) feeds off our numb acceptance of complex verbage in our everyday lives.

Speaking of lawyers, here’s a sample of something I recently had to turn into plain English for a law firm. Just as you can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse neither should you be turning a noun into a verb.

Shorter sentences, dealing with one main point, are the most effective.

This doesn’t mean over-simplifying the writing but crafting each sentence to serve one precise purpose. As a guide, a good, plain English sentence should consist of around 20 words — short enough to be clear, long enough to flow well. Long sentences can be hard for the reader to understand, even when the punctuation is correct, because people like a gap and as a writer you have to be aware of this, and consider the impact of long sentences on your reader.

Scratch the surface and you may find yourself in freefall, for these battalions of nothingness often carry no precise meaning at all.

A case in point is the following blast of corporate verbage I edited in an annual report for a finance client this year.

So said Henry Alford — English churchman, theologian, textual critic, scholar, poet, and writer — about 150 years ago.

We learn about your company, products and services, and translate that knowledge and passion into engaging copy that gets results.

By helping you stay ‘on-brand’ and talk more directly to your customers, investors, electorates and employees, we make you a more effective communicator.

Here’s how embracing the full stop (and a bit of editing) can improve things.

Long sentences can be hard for the reader to understand, even when the punctuation is correct.

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