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longgone's avatar

Have you heard of "Easy Read"?

Asked by longgone (7458 points ) February 10th, 2014

I just came across an article on this. It seems that “Easy Read” is a pretty new system developed by People First in the UK.

Using small words and short sentences, it’s supposed to improve accessability. Everyone suffering from dyslexia or functional illiteracy is meant to benefit, as well as immigrants.
Here’s an example.

Plain English: “Thank you for your letter asking for permission to put up posters in the library. Before we can give you an answer we will need to see a copy of the posters to make sure they won’t offend anyone.”

Easy Read: “Thank you for your letter about your poster. We need to see the poster before we put it up. This is because it must not offend anyone.  Offend means to upset people.”

This link will take you to some more examples.

There are translators working on Easy Read versions of bible parts, apparently, as well as manuals and health information.

I think it’s a great idea – and long overdue. Our convoluted way of writing may sound good, but it definitely creates barriers. What do you say?

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11 Answers

tedibear's avatar

This is an off-the-cuff answer, but it seems to me that the “Easy Read” way of writing is the active voice. The “plain English ” version reads, to me, more like the passive voice. I was taught to write in the active voice as much as possible, so the “Easy Read” version is much more familiar to me.

To answer your question – I like it!

Haleth's avatar

It reminds me of when the Chinese government introduced simplified characters. (Here are a few examples of differences between simplified and traditional.) That led to increased literacy there.

The difference is, I guess, that Easy Read changes the actual words. Complex words and sentence structures let us convey different shades of meaning and be precise when we write or speak. I wouldn’t want to think, write, or speak in a language that didn’t have enough words. I could see Easy Read leading to increased literacy, like the simplified characters, but it also strongly reminds me of the newspeak in 1984.

Maybe the most helpful way to use it would be to have traditional English and Easy Read versions side by side? That might also let people who read at the level of Easy Read to start reading and understanding the same ideas in traditional English. I’m all for anything that increases knowledge. If it leads to increased literacy- great! But if we all start writing that way- fuck that!

KNOWITALL's avatar

So basically pidgin english written version. I think verbage is very important so I’m not a big fan.

longgone's avatar

@Haleth Good point. I wouldn’t want Easy Read to replace our usual way of writing. All subtle differences would be lost, sarcasm and poetry would die…no. The way I understand it, official websites would exist in two versions, as well as some books. So, what you suggested, basically.

@tedibear Yes, using the passive voice is strictly forbidden ;)

@KNOWITALL Pidgin English? What’s that?

keobooks's avatar

@KNOWITALL This seems to be grammatically correct English, not pidgin. It just looks like writing things to be less passive and get to the point more quickly.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@longgone How you talk to children and foreigners in short, simple sentences.

ibstubro's avatar

Looks like dumbing down, to me. I don’t have a problem with it as a tool, but I don’t care for the example given because I don’t like being talked down to. If I didn’t know the meaning of the word offend, I would look it up.

I don’t think there is excellence in pandering to the lowest common denominator, and I think we already do too much of it.

its anti-fluther n loks 2 mch lke txtspek 2 me.

keobooks's avatar

I wish some principals I worked with used Easy Read. I remember having to stumble through bad corporate-ese that used lots of buzzwords but made no sense. I know corporations have a reputation for this as well.

ibstubro's avatar

ACK! Stalker alert ^!

tedibear's avatar

@longgone – LOL! The Forbidden Passive Voice sounds like a terrible novel title.

Except for the definition of “offend,” the way the message is much clearer in the active voice. I might change “We need to see the poster before we put it up. This is because it must not offend anyone,” to “We need to see the poster before we put it up to ensure that there is no potentially offensive material.” Not the most active sentence, but not like the “Plain English” example.

tedibear's avatar

Wow, I just noticed at least two mistakes in my previous post. This is what happens when I don’t proofread! Sorry about that, Fluther.

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