Plain English Campaign

firm in the United Kingdom

Plain English Campaign Limited (PEC) is a commercial editing and training firm based in the United Kingdom. It was started in 1979 by Chrissie Maher. The company advocates for the use of simple ("plain") English. It tries to persuade organisations in the UK and abroad to communicate with the public simply. In 1990, Plain English Campaign created the Crystal Mark, its "seal of approval." This is a symbol printed on documents which the Plain English campaign thinks are very easy to understand. According to the Plain English Campaign, the symbol appears on over 20,000 documents worldwide.

The Plain English Campaign also gives out an annual "Foot in Mouth Award" for "a baffling comment by a public figure." The name of this award comes from a humorous English idiom. If a person has their "foot in their mouth," that means they are speaking badly and not paying attention to what they are saying. The plain English Campaign also gives out a "Golden Bull Award" for "the worst examples of written tripe". The name of this award also comes from a common English idiom. "Bull" is short for "bullshit," which literally means the excrement of a bull, but is often used to mean stupid, dishonest or unbelievable speech or writing. The word "tripe," similar to "bullshit," has both a literal and a figurative meaning. Literally, it means a food made from an animal's stomach lining. As it is used here, "tripe" means something very close to "bullshit."

In other words, the Plain English Campaign's "Foot in Mouth Award" is given to someone famous who speaks stupidly. The "Golden Bull Award" is given to someone famous who writes stupidly. Both awards are sarcastic. They are different from normal awards because they criticise, rather than honor, the people they are given to. Famous winners of the Foot in Mouth Award include George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld.

Plain English Campaign has worked for many organisations. Many UK forms and bills carry the Crystal Mark, including the British passport application form. Plain English Campaign is often described in the media as a "pressure group."

It regularly makes public comments about language-related news stories and about jargon. For example, in 2006 its supporters voted Bill Shankly the author of the greatest football quotation of all time. Plain English Campaign did a survey in 2004 and announced that ‘At the end of the day’ was considered the most irritating cliché. Chrissie Maher, who created Plain English Campaign, was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1994 for her services to plain communication. Famous supporters of PEC include Margaret Thatcher and broadcaster John Humphrys.

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