Tamsin Constable

Coroner’s rant about emergency services’ lack of Plain English

It’s not often I try to take notes with my mascara wand. But there I was, getting ready to go out, when a radio news item had me cheering and scrabbling to find something to write with.

Here’s what I heard. Yesterday, on the last day of the inquest into the 7/7 bombings in 2005, the coroner Lady Justice Haslett launched into a rant about the amount of jargon she’d had to endure during the past five months.

‘Frontline workers might not understand the ‘management speak’ used at an emergency scene,’ she said.

Laying into assistant commissioner of London Fire Brigade, she continued, “When it comes to managing incidents, people don’t understand what the other person is. I don’t know whether a crew manager is somebody who is responsible for supplies or is used to fighting fires. I have no idea…’

‘What worries me is all you senior people of these organisations are allowing yourselves to be taken over by management jargon and … I just think that you people at the top need to say, we have to communicate with people in plain English…’

‘If you could do anything when you meet up with your fellow senior officers, in whatever organisations, to encourage the use of plain English, I, for one, would be enormously grateful and I think it would make everybody just that little bit more effective.’

Plain English saves lives. And I’ve discovered a new font: ‘longlash sans smudge’.

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