English for the masses

One thing I hear a lot are the security announcements in airports. I find them to be poorly worded when youLeggendo le revisioni di play online poker italia online, scoprirai quali sono i migliori siti di play poker online per giocare. think about their purpose. If you’re trying to reach most passengers and get them to behave in a certain way, give them a message they can understand.

Announcements at airports tend to be spoken in very stilted, overly formal language. Furthermore, they use words that a person who can only speak a little bit of English is unlikely to understand well. Consider some phrases:

Do not accept articles from persons who are unknown to you.

also heard as

Do not accept articles from unknown persons.

and so on.

Why can’t we say something like:

Do not accept anything from someone you don’t know.

I wonder how many people with limited English comprehension can understand “persons.” I’m sure they’re taught “people” or “someone” before they’re taught “persons.” If you’re picking up the language informally, you’re surely not going to learn “persons,” though you can probably figure it out. What about “articles”? A non-native English speaker is likely to hear “article” refer to a newspaper, magazine, or even item of clothing. Outside of legal contexts, it is rare to see “article” refer to general items of any kind. It seems to me that “anything” is a much better choice because it’s actually clearer (let’s not quibble over what “article” means: don’t accept anything). Plus, it’s a word that someone is likely to know.

Here’s another phrase:

Report any suspicious persons or activities to the nearest law enforcement officer.

I already talked about “persons.” Even though I’m not fond of “activities” here, I don’t have a better word. In this case, I’m thinking of “law enforcement officer.” What about saying “police or security” here? Again, it seems pretty clear, and anyone who has lived in the US a short time will at least know “police” if not also “security.

On airplanes there’s usually some announcement about “congregating” near the “flight deck door.” That’s the door to the cockpit, you know, the place where the pilots sit. Who calls that the “flight deck?” And “congregating?” Although it may be undesirable to use the unofficial terms, it’s better to be clear. Why not just say “no one is allowed to stand near the cockpit”?

My point is that people try to be overly formal in a misguided attempt to be clear. I think formality is unclear, especially for the masses.

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