Re: Style guide
- From: "Peter Duncanson (BrE)" <mail@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sat, 12 Feb 2011 14:28:00 +0000
On Sat, 12 Feb 2011 13:53:58 +0100, Pablo <noone@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
What say the panel about this style guide?
It is 140 pages long!
The purpose of the guide is explained in the Introduction. It seems
reasonable to me.
This Style Guide is intended primarily for English-language authors
and translators, both in-house and freelance, working for the
European Commission. But now that so many texts in and around the EU
institutions are drafted in English by native and nonnative speakers
alike, its rules, reminders and handy references aim to serve a
wider readership as well.
In this Guide, 'style' is synonymous with a set of accepted
linguistic conventions; it therefore refers to recommended in-house
usage, not to literary style. Excellent advice on how to improve
writing style is given in The Plain English Guide by Martin Cutts
(Oxford University press, 1999) and Style: Towards Clarity and Grace
by Joseph M. Williams (University of Chicago Press, 1995), and the
European Commission's own How to write clearly, all of which
encourage the use of good plain English. For reasons of stylistic
consistency, the variety of English on which this Guide bases its
instructions and advice is the standard usage of Britain and Ireland
(for the sake of convenience, called 'British usage' or 'British
English' in this Guide).
The Guide is divided into two clearly distinct parts, the first
dealing with linguistic conventions applicable in all contexts and
the second with the workings of the European Union -- and with how
those workings are expressed and reflected in English. This should
not be taken to imply that 'EU English' is different from 'real
English'; it is simply a reflection of the fact that the European
Union as a unique body has had to invent a terminology to describe
itself. However, the overriding aim in both parts of the Guide is to
facilitate and encourage the writing of clear and reader-friendly
Writing in clear language can be difficult at the Commission, since
much of the subject matter is complex and more and more is written
in English by (and for) non-native speakers, or by native speakers
who are beginning to lose touch with their language after years of
working in a multilingual environment. We must nevertheless try to
set an example by using language that is as clear, simple, and
accessible as possible, out of courtesy to our readers and
consideration for the image of the Commission.
In legislative texts, accuracy and clarity are of course paramount.
But legal or bureaucratic language that we might regard as pompous
elsewhere has its place in both legislation and preparatory
drafting, though the specialist terms must be embedded in
rock-solid, straightforward English syntax. In some cases --
departmental memos or papers for specialist committees -- we may
regard 'Eurospeak' as acceptable professional shorthand; searching
here for 'plain English' periphrases wastes time and simply
By contrast, in-house jargon is not appropriate in documents
addressing the general public such as leaflets or web pages.
Information of practical use, e.g. on rights, applying for jobs or
accessing funding, must be immediately understandable even to those
unfamiliar with the workings and vocabulary of the EU. This also
means, for example, using short paragraphs, simple syntax and
highlighting devices such as bullets.
Peter Duncanson, UK
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