Re. Simple (simplified) English?

Subject: Re. Simple (simplified) English?
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 1996 16:16:32 -0600

Tuija (Isomursu?) asked about the use of simple (also
called "simplified") English. Welcome to the list, Tuija!

Simplified English is a particularly helpful tool whenever
you will translate your text into other languages, but it
suggests strategies that work well in any project:

1. Controlled vocabulary: Choose words that have (as near
as possible) unique meanings rather than words with several
possible meanings. Create a "dictionary" of permitted words
and forbidden words, and use this to help you.

2. Consistency: The corollary to point 1 is that you should
use words consistently: for example, use each noun to
represent only a single concept, and for any given concept,
don't use several synonyms.

3. Simplified structure: Avoid any unnecessarily complex
sentences, particularly sentences whose meaning relies on
subtle differences in punctuation. This doesn't mean that
you should use only short sentences: a well-written long
sentence can be more effective than the string of
truncated, oddly connected sentences that you create by
shortening it.

4. Metaphor and idiom: Avoid culturally, religiously,
politically etc. specific images and phrases. These tend to
translate poorly outside your own region, and may even
offend some readers; even if you're not translating, many
readers won't understand what you're getting at.

We don't have a formal policy on "simplified English",
largely because we're aiming all our reports at a
relatively homogeneous audience. We do, however, use
standardized terminology in both English and French, and
follow the four points above as closely as possible during
editing. We haven't tested whether abandoning these
principles would compromise readability.

Speaking of which, don't use any readability indices to
measure how "simple" your English is. The last time that we
discussed readability indices on the list, nobody cited any
indices that accounted for context, audience knowledge and
the skillful interconnection of words. You'll get better
results applying the four steps above than editing to meet
the demands of some mechanically calculated index.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of our
reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.

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