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Re: 4.1 success criteria - proposal for division

From: Avi Arditti <aardit@voa.gov>
Date: Thu, 22 Aug 2002 12:23:06 -0400
Message-ID: <3D650FEA.95295D43@voa.gov>
To: Emmanuelle Gutiérrez y Restrepo <emmanuelle@mi.madritel.es>
CC: john_slatin <john_slatin@forum.utexas.edu>, "'Charles McCathieNevile'" <charles@w3.org>, WAI GL <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

I agree with Emmanuelle, Charles and John that the list of ideas I
compiled does not deal enough with the diversity of "plain language."

Maybe a better approach is to get away from specifics and instead
propose a list of guiding principles.  These might be along the lines

* "Use a form of sentence structure that is generally considered easy to
understand in a particular language." 

* "Organize content in a way that is generally considered easy to
understand in a particular language and for a particular use (such as
instructions or correspondence or informational materials.)   

* "Use a form of address that is considered easy to understand in a
particular language and for a particular use, yet is also culturally

And so on -- the point being to get people to think about what would
constitute "plain" within the linguistic and cultural constraints of
their own language.   

To follow from the article Emmanuelle listed, here is an e-mail from a
Japanese woman who teaches English in Japan and is interested in plain
language. I recently asked her what would be plain Japanese:


Not being an expert on the Japanse language, I don't think
we have such a plain Japanese campaign as you have a
PE crusade in English speaking countries. I admit, though, that
there are books on the market on "how to write" in Japanese.
The books are, to all intents and purposes, meant to convery
the same message as PE.

And I may say safely that partly as a result of PE or Western
culture, "Plain Japanese" has been gaining ground - especially,
in business writing...Say yes or no at the beginning instead of
at the end.

The Japanese language writing is structured in the order of
development, turn, and conclusion. Which means we don't know the
conclusion until we come to the end of a message vis-a-vis at the
beginning in PE. Thus, the traditional Japanese way of writing is
neither efficient nor effective for business purposes; PE is catching
attention as an example.

In my opinion the Japanese language is, as a whole,  more comlex and
 difficult to understand than the English language. This may have
to do with the differences in syntax and in culture.

We have Japanese grammar. But I think English grammar is more
In English you have a subject-verb-object construction. We have more
"freedom." Sometimes the subject is omitted - and is so recommended,
especially, "I." And the verb comes at the end. Which means we know
only at the end if the answer is yes or no. In between there are a posse
vague and ornate phrases and words. Impatient listeners tend to demand,
"So, what's your conclusion?"

Neither do we have a sense for "paragraphing." One paragraph /one
is the day of order. Or one paragraph contains lots of ideas: past,
future. And it's understood in Japanese but not in translated English.

On the cultural front, in Japan we're given to read between the lines of
other: guts feeling (haragei or stomach reading). We've been taught not
to say no directly. but indirectly. Instead we expect the other to read
us even if we don't explain in so many words. But this is changing,
especially in business writing. Plain Japanese is gaining ground. It's
the diaper stage, though.



Emmanuelle Gutiérrez y Restrepo wrote:
> I agree totally with Charles and Johh,
> Maybe the following article can help to edit some more appropriate
> approaches:
> http://www.plainlanguagenetwork.org/Rapport/rap19.html#FIVE
> regards,
> Emmanuelle
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "john_slatin" <john_slatin@forum.utexas.edu>
> To: "'Charles McCathieNevile'" <charles@w3.org>; "WAI GL"
> <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
> Sent: Thursday, August 22, 2002 4:25 PM
> Subject: RE: 4.1 success criteria - proposal for division
> |
> | Charles makes an excellent point.  Perhaps the advice section for 4.1
> could
> | include something to the effect that authors should follow the conventions
> | appropriate to the natural language of the content.  A further point: even
> | in English, it's not always appropriate to avoid the passive.  There are
> | times when it isn't possible to assign grammatical agency-- especially in
> | bureaucratic writing.  The Section 508 standards would fail this criterion
> | if we were to insist on it, for example.
> |
> | There are implicit cultural assumptions here, too.  In the United States,
> | for example, many people place high value on coming directly to "the
> point,"
> | both in writing and in oral communication.  But in many countries such
> | directness is considered rude, and in some cases it may be politically
> | dangerous (which is why satire flourishes under repressive regimes).
> |
> | John
> |
> | John Slatin, Ph.D.
> | Director, Institute for Technology & Learning
> | University of Texas at Austin
> | FAC 248C, Mail code G9600
> | Austin, TX 78712
> | ph 512-495-4288, f 512-495-4524
> | email jslatin@mail.utexas.edu
> | web http://www.ital.utexas.edu
> |
> |
> |
> | -----Original Message-----
> | From: Charles McCathieNevile [mailto:charles@w3.org]
> | Sent: Thursday, August 22, 2002 9:05 am
> | To: WAI GL
> | Subject: 4.1 success criteria - proposal for division
> |
> |
> |
> | Hi,
> |
> | I think it is important that any success criteria for language use
> includes
> | a list of applicable languages.
> |
> | For example, there is a proposal not to use noun sequences. In french, one
> | can reasonably say
> |
> |   la version du loi de droits de general de gaulle
> |
> | (either: General de Gaulle's version of the law of rights, or the version
> of
> | the law of General de Gaulle's rights).
> |
> | Similarly, it is proposed that verbs in the passive mood be avoided. (I.e.
> | the last sentence would fail, twice). I don't know if this applies in all
> | languages.
> |
> | If we do not think that a criterion works for a particular language, we
> | should not say anything. If we think that a criterion does not work for a
> | particular language, we should say so. I realise that this will leave us
> | with a weaker list than we might have, but hopefully it will encourage
> | people with relevant expertise to help fill the list. It will also
> hopefully
> | mean we avoid saying things that are wrong and would cause problems.
> |
> | cheers
> |
> | chaals
> |
> | --
> | Charles McCathieNevile  http://www.w3.org/People/Charles  tel: +61 409 134
> | 136 SWAD-E http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/Europe ------------ WAI
> | http://www.w3.org/WAI  21 Mitchell street, FOOTSCRAY Vic 3011, Australia
> | fax(fr): +33 4 92 38 78 22  W3C, 2004 Route des Lucioles, 06902 Sophia
> | Antipolis Cedex, France
> |
Received on Thursday, 22 August 2002 12:23:50 UTC

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