The computer, it seems, wants to be my best friend, my buddy!
When I opened the website for WordPress this morning, a pop up asked, “Do you want to save the password for this site?” and there were two boxes one read “save” and the other read “nope” Whatever happened to the “No thank you” that I am used to?
And then yesterday, I was setting up my Nike+ Fuelband and it was informing me of what I may and may not safely do using the band. I was informed that it was fine to shower or walk in the rain but swimming “not so much” it said.
I have been ‘Oops’ed when I have chosen a website that no longer exists and I have been asked if I want to ‘kill’ my choices when the internet doesn’t seem to be finding a website that I have asked it for. And every time I want to agree or accept something on the laptop I click on ‘ok’! There was a time when using the word OK was not acceptable in any formal or written work….my teachers would have had a lot to say about using OK! (Although I remember this, I want you to understand I am not that old, really!)
The strangest things make me giggle and the ‘not so much’ from Nike+ was one of those times. Suddenly, a seed of understanding began to filter through – that all these anonymous messages are trying to be friendly, to speak my language! My internet and my laptop are no longer a tool to help me work but they are my friends, my mates. I could well be sitting in the cafe or the bar with my peer group having a conversation!
“Do you want a coffee, Shazzer?” I ask.
“Nope!” she replies. “A shake!”
“I love to go swimming, do you Shazzer?”
“Not so much!”
This language change has been gaining pace over the past few decades and not just on the internet but wherever we find written and spoken language. And it is clear to understand why! If you have ever tried to make sense of House Deeds or even a Consent Order for your Divorce you will understand the difficulty of wading through legalese (unless you are a lawyer, of course and then you probably understand it perfectly? Maybe…..I am not sure that I am convinced!)
Each profession has its own jargon; it has to. It makes the conversations clear and economic within a profession. In an area in which I have experience, the medical profession, for example, the staff can talk MIs, ECGs, SATS, GCS etc without anyone checking in a medical dictionary! But outside of that? It is jargon; it distances the client from the professional and in a Doctor/patient relationship is a disaster. You want to understand what is going on with your own body, after all!
As far as the legal profession goes, the lawyers writing these legal documents are trying hard to ensure that they have covered every base, so that there can be no room for error within their documents. But it has meant that most of us need to employ a lawyer to read even a basic document! That’s fine to a point; I wouldn’t want any letter from my lawyer to begin ‘Wazup?’ because I also want to know that I am being treated seriously and respectfully. But in the past, documents have been written in a language that is incomprehensible even within the profession! (This is my opinion based on experience with one document that was written for me! Having discussed this with several lawyers, no two of them had the same opinion about its meaning!)
The Campaign for Plain English ( http://www.plainenglish.co.uk ) has been calling for jargon free English since 1979! And I think that there have been some great successes in shredding the professional babble from some quarters – although they are still working on our behalf! It is worth a look at their website – (and even doing the grammar quiz if you dare!).
There is obviously a difference between plain English and informal language! Plain English calls for clarity! Every statement still has to make the intentions of the writer clear which is obviously very important when thinking about legal documents.
And informal language? I am wondering whether everyone gets the same messages from their internet or whether the information stored about me in Cyberspace ensures that I get tailored messages related to my demographic?
Which begs another question altogether………