UK plain English rules

Relevant to 4.1:

This is from the UK Plain English Campaign. Note, at the bottom, the
rules for plain English in financial documents as proposed by Britain's
Financial Services Authority. 


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Plain English Campaign's weekly newsletter (14 February 2003)
Date: Fri, 14 Feb 2003 11:36:07 -0500
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Financial firms may have to give information in plain English. A
consultation paper from the Financial Services Authority proposes rules
specifically calling for plain English.

The paper, which runs to a less-than-concise 276 pages, suggests the
existing ‘Key Features Document’ that accompanies financial literature
should be replaced by a document called 'Key Facts'.

The proposed rules are scheduled to take effect in July. We have
reproduced the relevant section at the end of this newsletter.


Russian citizens who love slang and foreign expressions can once again
do so without fear of breaking the law. The country's council (upper
house of parliament) has overturned a law that banned writers from using
such expressions. The speaker of the council, Sergey Mironov, pointed
out that the country's constitution would need thirty amendments to meet
the new rules!


The National Consumer Council has warned that voluntary food labelling
schemes are more likely to confuse and mislead consumers rather than
inform them.

The consumer group has been looking at the many logos and claims on food
packaging which are not legally required. Their research suggests many
such labels are designed to make products stand out from one another,
with the result that consumers do not understand what the majority of
the labels and logos mean.

They have published a report, 'Bamboozled, Baffled and Bombarded', which
calls for:

* a guide to good practice in food labelling, developed by the Food
Standards Agency in partnership with manufacturers;

* consistent definitions for claims such as 'vegetarian' or 'healthy';

* clear rules for endorsement schemes, including making manufacturers
explain any financial arrangements behind such schemes.


No doubt many of our readers have come across baffling error messages
when visiting web sites that no longer exist. We came across an
intriguing one this week. The news that 'This Web page could not be
opened with the specified browser request. Please try again later.' was
clear enough. But we were surprised to discover that we had suffered a
'590 Unchunk Failure'. 


The proposed FSA rules:

‘A firm must take reasonable steps to ensure that all text is in clear,
easily understood language, following the principles of plain language.

A firm should draft a key facts document as an informative rather than a
technical document. Follow the principle of 'less is more'. This is not
a document intended to communicate the
full terms and conditions of a product to the customer. The content
should properly describe the contract but the document should not
overload the customer with too much detail.

A firm should:

(1) use explanatory boxes within the Frequently Asked Questions section
(see COB 6.6) to clarify difficult, unfamiliar or technical expressions
or concepts (for example 'What is an ICVC?' or 'Income units and growth

(2) avoid jargon, 'legalese' and bureaucratic language (for example,
'herewith', 'aforementioned, 'terminate', 'per annum');

(3) avoid abbreviations unless the firm has reason to believe that they
are widely known (for example, FSAVC). If an abbreviation is used, the
term should be written in full the first time it is used, together with
any further explanation that may be necessary;

(4) keep sentences as short as is reasonable, and avoid superfluous
words (for example, 'in terms of');

(5) use active, rather than passive, verbs, and address the reader
directly, using personal pronouns rather than the third person (for
example, 'you can find details' rather than 'details can be found'; 'we
will give you', rather than 'the customer will receive from the

(6) use terms that are clear, fair, not misleading and consistent, both
within the document and across other relevant literature; and

(7) apply any short-form name for the product (eg 'plan' or 'scheme' or
'policy') consistently throughout a key facts document and the example.’ 

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Received on Friday, 14 February 2003 12:05:30 UTC