Monday, May 23, 2011

864 An Historical Document

864 An Historical Document

Herein, the reader is to discover a posting that very likely will be found to be more difficult to read, comprehend and retain than has been customary in the previous 863 postings.

This Wessay™, number 864, is to become a memorial and tribute to a style of communication that while commonplace has been declared to have died by some of the very persons who assisted in its creation and perpetuation: the Government of these United States of America, its component states, territories, counties, municipalities, community boards and writers of letters to the editor, hereafter to be referred to as “government speak,” (GS.)

The “Plain Language” bill was recently promulgated by the United States House of Representatives as “HR 946,” as proposed by Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA.) and signed into law by president Barack Obama (D-Nairobi.)

Under the law, there is a requirement that GS sentences such as this one be written in what is known by grammarians as “the Active Voice.”

Hence, the above sentence might read “the new law says you must write in the active voice.” “Must” will be a template replacement for “you are required to...”, “the respondent is required to...” and similar GS phrases.

Those who use the new law in an appropriate manner, style or form, are under warning to avoid, eschew and shun most synonyms and unnecessary repetition or reiteration of phrases and words.

If this isn’t accomplished by users, investigators from congress will review the facts of each individual case and decide the most appropriate course of action.

Special advice is offered for the benefit of federal employees whose jobs include writing copy for the Internet or World Wide Web. Among the offered counsel: Do not use PDA format, especially in large documents. PDAs, they are told, are awkward and slow loading as well as apt to cause a reader to lose track of the original web page if said file or document were to open “over it,” thereby covering it or blocking its view.

The advice is part of a general handbook which itself is in the PDA format.

Perhaps the most startling admonishment concerns the use of “contractions,” the common conversational form in which two or more
words are made shorter by combining them, often, though not always with the use of an apostrophe or by elision. Examples include such words as “it’s,” “don’t,” “can’t,” or “couldn’t.” Modern linguists would be likely to label this a “sea change.”

The title of this weBLog is “An Historical Document” because if the law is followed by to the letter by those at whom it is aimed, most of whom are law-abiding citizens (or resident aliens whose right to work in the United States has been documented by them,) it will soon be seen that federal writing will be more easily understood or followed and the information therein retained by its readers.


I am Wesley Richards. My opinions are my own and not those of the blog host, the writer’s employers, friends, relatives, or countrymen. That having been said, you are entitled to said opinions. ®

If you wish to comment, challenge, add or debate any of the above, please address your communication via electronic mail to WesleyJRichards@yahoo.com.

The contents herein contained are copyright 2011 by the author and may not be reproduced in print, electronic, audio, video, photocopy, facsimile or any other form without express written permission therefrom.

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