Monday, October 17, 2005


Fortunes are being spent these days by governments and business firms to de-stultify or even translate prose in documents. 'Says a lot about the awful style of writing still used by some 'educated' executives. For instance, according to a story in the Ottawa Citizen, the problem is widespread in the Ontario civil service.

The Cabinet Office there had to hire a high-­priced consultant to translate a ministry document into plain English. 'Seems a 75-page policy paper on education (you might have guessed) was so hard to understand, all the people who paid for it could not comprehend it. A fee of 10 000 had to be paid to an outside consulting firm to get it re-written into jargon-free plain English.

Finance Critic Dave Johnson blasted the government department for "employing 3,000 people unable to speak or write any known language." In its original pre-translated form, the 'Curriculum Grades 1-9' culprit is hilarious. Instead of the word music, it refers to "the organization of sounds" ... dance becomes "the sequencing of movements" ... Reading was said to include "viewing" (TV shows) ... writing "includes various forms of representing words" ...

However, students were solemnly advised, "conventional spelling is required in most published written work." The future of clear writing lies uphill when this Education Ministry paper effuses that, "... events, problems and situations one encounters in daily life are not experienced as discrete phenomena; rather they are experienced holistically."

Oh, really? Well ...with bafflegab like that around, down-to-earth wordsmiths can look forward to being gainfully employed as translators for some time to come.


In an age when most people feel they don't have time to read, they always manage to watch TV. Immediacy, movement, color, sound, economy video is the ideal communications medium. Yet, considering how effective corporate videotapes are, it's astounding how scarce they remain,

When was the last time you chose video to spread your company's message? How often have you put your organization's information on tape? But it's heartening to see that many businesses and government departments are now turning to this medium in growing numbers. Long under-utilized, low-budget video promises to become a huge trend.

Join it. Next time you've a message to get out, instructions to demonstrate, a field-report, or policy to explain -- consider putting it on video. Not sure how to write the script? Once you know how, the format's quite straightforward. "Audio" (sound) left column. "Video" (pictures) right column.

Worried about cost? Maybe you got burned once, paying for that expensive taped extravaganza that didn't really draw much response. Take another look. Workaday video can cost peanuts, relative to conventional media. So long as you resist suppliers' siren lure into Hollywood-scale productions.

Mainly just concentrate on the core message itself, the content, rather than expensive editing and flashy graphics. Spend most of the dough on conveying the message, simply and clearly -- duping and distributing enough copies of tapes to individuals, sales prospects, cable stations, civic groups, or whoever is your target audience.

Speaking from my personal experience even the most modest videotape will gain ten times more immediate attention and lasting comprehension than the glitziest 4-colour web site or brochure you'll ever create.