Tamsin Constable

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Next nature writing workshop: Living Seas Centre, Flamborough, Yorks.

Saturday 16 September 2017  10am-2pm. Click here to book your place through the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.








Feeling connected to nature does wonderful things. It boosts health and wellbeing, in all kinds of brilliant and exciting ways that we’re only just beginning properly to understand. It also promotes care for the environment.

In this workshop, you will explore writing as a way to understand, appreciate and enjoy wildlife and nature. You will learn to write about your experiences in a way that others will enjoy.

• Guided walk with a naturalist from the Living Seas Centre.
• Guided writing: jog your memory, sharpen your powers of observation and see that pen fly!
• Shape and share: learn how to write about your experiences in a way that others will understand and enjoy.
• Inspiration: opportunity (weather permitting) to write outside.
• Refreshments.

This is open to anyone, regardless of skill or knowledge. You don’t need to know your commas – either the butterfly kind or the punctuation kind.

For more information and to book your place, please book here.

Watching narwhals watching us – Baffin Island

Narwhal: “12 o’clock, just along the beach, down from the dark overhang: HUGE pod of humans. Quick, everyone, stay together, and keep quiet. They’re pretty stupid, so if we move en masse, we might be able to get quite close. Ah! 2 o’clock, alpha male vocalising loudly. Do you think it’s to do with courtship? Or perhaps it’s male-on-male competition? Oi, you with the long tooth, will you get out of the way, I can’t see anything. (So selfish, these tuskers, with their expensive accessories.) Now if you look closely at the humans, you can see their markings — see those ones there with the grey and white colouring and mottled skin? Those are the really old ones. And see those long black shiny things they’ve got attached to their faces? Those are probably secondary sexual characteristics, females seem to prefer males with really big ones.  Well, they look happy, those humans. But I suppose we don’t know that they are happy. Just because they’re doing all that hugging and high-five-ing and kissing and air-punching, we mustn’t read too much into it, that would be terribly unscientific… Oh, hang on a minute, one of them’s crying. In fact, there are quite a few with tears in their eyes. I think we’re causing them stress. Right guys, time to leave the humans in peace. Everyone here? Back out to sea now, you’ve had your fun. Lead the way, Tusker!”

Then, suddenly, that sound, clear and pure. Narwhal song. I’ve just heard a narwhal song. A sudden gust of wind lifts me clean off my feet. Then again, I think I might just have leapt.

Environmental educators: are you missing a trick?

Fungi walks, plant ID sessions, lists of birds, do NOT support people’s sense of being connected to nature, according to recent research.*

So what does?

Researchers from Derby University highlight the five main pathways – and there’s not a field guide in sight*. They are:

1. Contact (we engage with all our senses). 2. Beauty (this is about connecting through aesthetics). 3. Meaning (nature represents ideas). 4. Emotion. 5. Compassion.

“There is a need to go beyond … knowledge and identification, to pathways that develop a more meaningful and emotional relationship with nature,” says researcher Dr Miles Richardson. “It is clear ‘the arts’ has a great deal to offer in reconnecting people to nature.”

Writing is a fantastic way for people – regardless of skill or ability – to connect with nature.

*Lumber R., Richardson M., Sheffield D. (2017) Beyond Knowing Nature: Contact, emotion, compassion, meaning, and beauty are pathways to nature connection. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0177186

Schools take notice!

If you’ve ever struggled to understand your child’s report, you’re not alone. Here’s an entertaining article from a US parent pleading for school to write in common sense language. “By the time I read to the end of a sentence, I’ve forgotten what the beginning was about,” writes Catherine Porter.

“My daughter ‘is reminded to stay on task, particularly for literacy centres, so that other peers also benefit from this work time’,” she writes. “Does that mean she chats too much during reading time?”

“My son ‘has demonstrated having had some difficulty following a series of specific instructions or steps to establish priorities and manage time to achieve goals.’ I think that means he’s unfocused.”

If the teachers can’t write clearly, what hope is there for the children?


Singapore financial institutions urged to end bad writing

Write your finance prospectuses in plain English! That’s the message to finance institutions from the Monetary Authority of Singapore. The regulators are fed up of seeing wordy jargon littering investor finance publications.

A consultation document released today found that much of the information about financial products that goes in prospectuses is so technical, vague and convoluted that it is difficult to understand. This prevents potential investors from making informed decisions. Common problems they identified include:

a) long, wordy and repetitive disclosures;

b) unnecessary, irrelevant or immaterial details;

c) material information concealed by the use of legal, financial or technical business jargons;

d) vague boilerplate disclosures which may not be meaningful to investors;

e) convoluted descriptions or explanations;

f) terms and conditions of contracts or agreements which are lengthy and difficult to understand, or reproduced in their entirety.

Clear writing, the Monetary Authority of Singapore states, is critical.

“The use of plain English is the setting out of information in a clear, concise and effective manner so that investors would be able to understand the information at their first reading. Using plain, everyday English makes prospectuses easier to understand and encourages investors to read prospectuses. You should always draft prospectuses with retail investors in mind as they are the audience with the greatest need for the information required to be disclosed in a prospectus. Prospectuses drafted in plain English are likely to help all investors to make informed investment decisions.”

You can read the full consultation paper here.

Council Chief Executive rant about gobbledygook

A council chief executive is so fed up of poorly written council meeting papers that he says is going to start sitting down with the authors to make sure he knows what they mean.

The anonymous executive writes that the gobbledygook he comes across has turned him into a plain English fan.

Well, hurray! But to have to sit down with authors in order to understand what they’ve written? Goodness me, what a waste of a chief exec’s time… Why not train the authors to write clearly in the first place?

Here’s the link to his piece I’m on a Plain English Crusade on the Local Government Chronicle.

Clear writing helps National Trust website win award

Congrats to whoever’s in charge of the writing for the National Trust website – it’s helped them win the Plain English Campaign’s ‘clearest website’ award.

Judges look for sites that are:

– written in plain English;
– attractive but not at the expense of clarity;
– make it easy for the reader to find their way around; and
– make it easy for the reader to get the information they are looking for.

The PEC said: “The National Trust website is a fine example of an accessible, readable and easily navigable website… the overall effect is that of a highly professional website that offers a fitting companion to a fine organisation.”

Foot in Mouth award

The Plain English Campaign’s 2012 award for the worst spoken gobbledygook goes to Mitt Romney for ‘literally dozens of examples’.

Here are two beauties:

“I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s
the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.”

“When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no —
and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft,
because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real