Reinventing English: Why plain language isnt so simple.

Tom Zurinskas truespel at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Mar 9 20:12:26 UTC 2007

The Voice of America uses a simplified English of 1,480 words in their
broadcast.  They have a dictionary of those words on their web site.  I
believe simplification of terminology is a great thing, and have no doubt
most would believe so as well.

I've used the VOA dictionary body in the "Beginner's Dictionary of USA
English: Truespel Book 3".  The first part addresses tradspel words, and the
second part addresses truespel words so the reader can look up a word
phonetically.  My claim is that the truespel notation is the most accurate
phonetic rendering (for USA English) because, for one thing, it spells out
all schwas according to common dialect (such as is voiced in

Tom Zurinskas, USA - CT20, TN3, NJ33, FL4+
See and the 4 truespel books at

>From: Dennis Baron <debaron at UIUC.EDU>
>Reply-To: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Subject: Reinventing English: Why plain language isn’t so simple.
>Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2007 00:43:44 -0600
>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Dennis Baron <debaron at UIUC.EDU>
>               = =?WINDOWS-1252?Q?_so_simple.?=
>There's a new post on the Web of Language:
>Reinventing English: Why plain language isn=92t so simple.
>Almost a decade ago Bill Clinton and Al Gore ordered the federal =20
>government to begin communicating with Americans in plain English.  =20
>All government documents created after Oct. 1, 1998, had to use easy =20
>words and short sentences, plus pronouns like you and the active =20
>voice.  Agencies were given three years to rewrite all their old =20
>documents in plain English as well.
>If my recent struggle with IRS Form 1040 is any example, that =20
>directive, like the Clinton administration=92s other attempts to =20
>reinvent government, institute universal health care, decriminalize =20
>military homosexuality, or get anything done at all, failed =20
>miserably.  Perhaps it was the Republican Congress, not the English =20
>language, that tripped them up, but then again, Clinton wasn=92t even =20=
>sure what the meaning of a simple word like =93is=94 is.
>Now Los Angeles County has jumped aboard the =93plain language=94 =20
>bandwagon, spending over $200,000 on a computer program to make its =20
>documents easier to read.  But the LA initiative, like its federal =20
>predecessor, is doomed to fail...
>... the four keystones of plain English don=92t guarantee =20
>comprehension.  Using simple, everyday words may sound like a recipe =20
>for clarity.  But in the 1930=92s, the philosopher C. K. Ogden put =20
>together a set of 850 words -- he called them Basic English-- which =20
>could express just about anything.  Basic English never caught on, =20
>because few philosophers can get by on 850 words, and even ordinary =20
>readers with average vocabularies of forty to eighty thousand words =20
>(the actual number depends on what the word word means) need more =20
>words to keep their interest from flagging.
>Short sentences don=92t work either, because, despite the fact that =20
>Pascal once apologized for a long letter by saying, =93I only made this
>longer because I didn=92t have the time to make it shorter,=94 no one =
>can =20
>really agree on when a sentence is short enough.  Is a  six word =20
>sentence ideal?  Two words?  One?  Less than one?  Uh . . . .
>As for pronouns, it=92s impossible to write without them.  And while =20
>most people agree that the active voice is better than the passive, =20
>few people even know what the passive voice is (many people confuse =20
>it with the past tense).
>... The writer=92s job is not to be simple or complex, not to follow a =20=
>formula or diverge from it.  The writer=92s job, in plain English, is =20=
>to keep the reader reading.  Unfortunately, there=92s no simple way to =20=
>do that, no formula of the just-add-water variety that guarantees =20
>perfect prose every time. ...
>find out more, on the Web of Language
>Dennis Baron
>Professor of English and Linguistics
>Department of English
>University of Illinois
>608 S. Wright St.
>Urbana, IL 61801
>office: 217-244-0568
>fax: 217-333-4321
>read the Web of Language:
>The American Dialect Society -

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