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Last Updated: Monday, 12 December 2005, 11:42 GMT
Nine things that make no sense
Each year the Plain English Campaign nominates examples of gobbledegook. And each year the Magazine shares the joy. So here are nine statements, chosen by the campaign, which could perhaps do with some re-working.

Rhodri Morgan
Rhodri Morgan, this year's overall winner
1. Rhodri Morgan, Welsh First Minister, for: "The only thing which isn't up for grabs is no change and I think it's fair to say it's all to play for, except for no change." (Mr Morgan was the overall winner this year, for the second time.)

2. Australian Taxations Office for: "For the purpose of making a declaration under this Subdivision, the Commissioner may: a) treat a particular event that actually happened as not having happened; and b) treat a particular event that did not actually happen as having happened and, if appropriate, treat the event as: i) having happened at a particular time; and ii) having involved particular action by a particular entity; and c) treat a particular event that actually happened as: i) having happened at a time different from the time it actually happened; or ii) having involved particular action by a particular entity (whether or not the event actually involved any action by that entity)."

3. Central Manchester and Manchester Children's University Hospitals NHS Trust for: "Where the combined value of the above payments before actual assimilation remains greater than the combined value of the payments after assimilation, the former level of pay will be protected. These protection arrangements apply to the combined value of payments before and after assimilation, not to individual pay components, excepting the provision relating to retention of existing on-call arrangements."

4. Department for Culture, Media and Sport for the new Licensing Act: "Food or drink supplied on or from any premises is 'hot' for the purposes of this Schedule if the food or drink, or any part of it,- (a) before it is supplied, is heated on the premises or elsewhere for the purpose of enabling it to be consumed at a temperature above the ambient air temperature and, at the time of supply, is above that temperature, or (b) after it is supplied, may be heated on the premises for the purpose of enabling it to be consumed at a temperature above the ambient air temperature."

5. Halton Borough Council for a public notice - "A path from a point approximately 330 metres east of the most south-westerly corner of 17 Batherton Close, Widnes and approximately 208 metres east-south-east of the most southerly corner of Unit 3 Foundry Industrial Estate, Victoria Street, Widnes, proceeding in a generally east-north-easterly direction for approximately 28 metres to a point approximately 202 metres east-south-east of the most south-easterly corner of Unit 4 Foundry Industrial Estate, Victoria Street, and approximately 347 metres east of the most south-easterly corner of 17 Batherton Close, then proceeding in a generally northerly direction for approximately 21 metres to a point approximately 210 metres east of the most south-easterly corner of Unit 5 Foundry Industrial Estate, Victoria Street, and approximately 202 metres east-south-east of the most north-easterly corner of Unit 4 Foundry Industrial Estate, Victoria Street, then proceeding in a generally east-north-east direction for approximately 64 metres to a point approximately 282 metres east-south-east of the most easterly corner of Unit 2 Foundry Industrial Estate, Victoria Street, Widnes and approximately 259 metres east of the most southerly corner of Unit 4 Foundry Industrial Estate, Victoria Street, then proceeding in a generally east-north-east direction for approximately 350 metres to a point approximately 3 metres west-north-west of the most north westerly corner of the boundary fence of the scrap metal yard on the south side of Cornubia Road, Widnes, and approximately 47 metres west-south-west of the stub end of Cornubia Road be diverted to a 3 metre wide path from a point approximately 183 metres east-south-east of the most easterly corner of Unit 5 Foundry Industrial Estate, Victoria Street and approximately 272 metres east of the most north-easterly corner of 26 Ann Street West, Widnes, then proceeding in a generally north easterly direction for approximately 58 metres to a point approximately 216 metres east-south-east of the most easterly corner of Unit 4 Foundry Industrial Estate, Victoria Street and approximately 221 metres east of the most southerly corner of Unit 5 Foundry Industrial Estate, Victoria Street, then proceeding in a generally easterly direction for approximately 45 metres to a point approximately 265 metres east-south-east of the most north-easterly corner of Unit 3 Foundry Industrial Estate, Victoria Street and approximately 265 metres east of the most southerly corner of Unit 5 Foundry Industrial Estate, Victoria Street, then proceeding in a generally east-south-east direction for approximately 102 metres to a point approximately 366 metres east-south-east of the most easterly corner of Unit 3 Foundry Industrial Estate, Victoria Street and approximately 463 metres east of the most north easterly corner of 22 Ann Street West, Widnes, then proceeding in a generally north-north-easterly direction for approximately 19 metres to a point approximately 368 metres east-south-east of the most easterly corner of Unit 3 Foundry Industrial Estate, Victoria Street and approximately 512 metres east of the most south easterly corner of 17 Batherton Close, Widnes then proceeding in a generally east-south, easterly direction for approximately 16 metres to a point approximately 420 metres east-south-east of the most southerly corner of Unit 2 Foundry Industrial Estate, Victoria Street and approximately 533 metres east of the most south-easterly corner of 17 Batherton Close, then proceeding in a generally east-north-easterly direction for approximately 240 metres to a point approximately 606 metres east of the most northerly corner of Unit 4 Foundry Industrial Estate, Victoria Street and approximately 23 metres south of the most south westerly corner of the boundary fencing of the scrap metal yard on the south side of Cornubia Road, Widnes, then proceeding in a generally northern direction for approximately 44 metres to a point approximately 3 metres west-north-west of the most north westerly corner of the boundary fence of the scrap metal yard on the south side of Cornubia Road and approximately 47 metres west-south-west of the stub end of Cornubia Road."

6. Poole Lighting Limited for a sheet of instructions- "3. The switched main live is generally a single black wire and this is connected to the brown wire(s) on the fitting. On a wall light this should be a single red wire. The neutral is generally two black wires and these are connected to the blue wire(s). On a wall light this should be a single black wire. The mains earth wire(s) must be connected to all green/yellow wire(s) or earth terminal on the fitting. When completed ensure that there are no bare or loose strands of wire exposed, and cover all exposed areas of terminal blocks with insulation tape."

7. Scottish Executive for the Building (Scotland) regulations - "The completion certificate must be submitted by the relevant person as defined by the Building (Scotland) Act 2003, that is- a) Where the work was carried out, or the conversion made, otherwise than on behalf of another person, the person who carried out the work or made the conversion. b) Where the work was carried out, or the conversion made, by a person on behalf of another person, that other person. c) If the owner of the building does not fall within paragraph (a) or (b) and the person required by these paragraphs to submit the completion certificate has failed to do so, the owner."

8. Uk2net for an e-mail to a customer - "YOUR EMAIL DID NOT REACH A HUMANOID. IT ONLY REACHED REPLICANT LEVEL 1. E-MAIL ARRIVING FROM HERE ARE SPOOLED FOR AUTOMATIC CHECKING AND WILL NOT BE READ BY HUMANOIDS."

9. Wanadoo for Wireless and Talk terms and conditions- "The failure to exercise or delay in exercising a right or remedy under this Agreement shall not constitute a waiver of the right or remedy or a waiver of any other rights or remedies and no single or partial exercise of any right or remedy under this Agreement shall prevent any further exercise of the right or remedy or the exercise of any other right or remedy. The rights and remedies contained in this Agreement are cumulative and not exclusive of any rights or remedies provided by law."


Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

To be fair, the first two on the list haven't got English as a first language! And number 8 was written by a computer.
Frank Healy, Manchester, UK

So in summary, 1) Anything could happen, except for the current status.
2) Any declaration, whether it occurred or not, can be declared to have or to have not occurred, including at a time different to when it did occur.
3) Your level of pay will not decrease after assimilation.
4) If a meal is served above room temperature, it is called a "hot" meal.
5) This is the route of a path.
6) Consult an electrician.
7) We need a certificate, and it'll be easiest if you all fill out your own.
8) We have received your e-mail but will not read it.
9) Nope, sorry, have no idea what this one means.
Do I pass?
Matt H, London

The award to Halton Borough Council seems a bit harsh, this appears to be taken from a Public Path Creation order or similar document. It is a requirement that the route is described in words as well as on a plan, the same applies to tree preservation orders. It may not look like 'good English' but the purpose of the text is to provide an unambiguous description, hard to do that any other way than they have.
Anne, Highland

I saw this at a Park & ride car park
"Overstaying penalty 72.00.
Overstaying will be enforced"
Thank god i don't own a car.
Michael, Oxford

While some of these examples are truly appalling, some, for example number 9, merely require some effort and a little application by the reader. Perhaps a more worthy target for such campaigns would be to change the society which mocks complex sentence structures rather than equipping its members to understand them.
Tom Lee, Guernsey

This is a very poor crop by the Plain English Campaign; at least five (arguably six or seven) of these make perfect sense and can be regarded as no worse than merely ungainly. If these truly were the worst examples of unclear English used over the past year, then perhaps it reflects well on the campaign's success at eradicating truly disgusting constructions.
Chris M. Dickson, Middlesbrough, UK

I'm very worried that I actually understand most of this. Has gobbledegook suffered from dumbing down, thus making it easier to understand?
Ray Lashley, Bristol, UK

Yeah but, no but
Georgie, Herts.

Item 3, although a little wordy, makes perfect sense. It appears to be taken from the agenda for change. Item 5 - how else are you supposed to describe accurately, without a map, the route of a path, so that it cannot be misconstrued? Item 8 - I've received this myself in the past and appreciated it for what it is - tongue in cheek humour.
Ian Fitter, Bolton, UK

I'm wondering how the wording of No. 5, which is taken directly from a land title and which cannot be abbreviated by even one letter without making the notice useless and illegal, can be considered unnecessary. You can't go around changing land titles just for the heck of it. That's not even a particularly unusual or long land description.
Charlene, Calgary, Canada

I found statement 4 utterly intelligible, and I would be hard pushed to come up with an alternative that was as clear and concise. Although I can't verify the accuracy of statement 5 it gives a description of the footpath in the level of detail required for a public notice.
Jeff, Halesowen, UK

After reading the Halton Borough Council part I got totally lost after about three lines. And as for Central Manchester and Manchester Children's University Hospitals NHS Trust, are they employing the Borg as nurses?
Martyn, Kings Lynn, UK

Sometimes I wonder at the Plain English Campaigners. Many of these are legal statements, and as such have to be phrased very carefully and fully. No 6 IS a poor and potentially dangerous bit of prose. Of the others, No 5 needs to be read in conjunction with the relevant map, when I suspect it would be quite comprehensible. No 8 is a good joke. And Rhodri Morgan's contribution, presumably delivered verbally, is quite clear if written with quotes round the words "no change" wherever they occur.
Harriet, Worcester

Regarding Number 2: They're just making it up!
Stephen Buxton, Coventry, UK, thelbiq.co.uk

I went through a pay assimilation process recently. Manchester Children's University Hospitals' quote makes perfect sense in context. Likewise most of the other statements do make sense - they're just trying to convey complex info in a law-suit proof way. Rhoddri Morgan's comments on the other hand are just baffling!
Peter, Nottingham

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