Progress made in mission to be plain

ALONE among the 'plain speakers' all around him, the Rev Lord Milverton argued the case for dense language, dripping with metaphors, allusions and complex imagery. But his message was somewhat out of place at the annual Plain English Awards in London yesterday.

The clerical peer, Rector of the Wiltshire parish of Christian Malford with Sutton Benger and Tytherton Kellaways, was praising the traditional English Bible. 'These plainly written modern versions, they make Christianity so commonplace,' he said. But, around him, sinners had seen the light.

The deputy chairman of the Inland Revenue confessed its forms had once been 'horrendously complex', as he collected a prize for its clear, humorous and informative leaflet on how to claim back tax. Other winners included the Employment Service, Sheffield City Council and the Metropolitan Police.

The Plain English Campaign's booby prize winner was this definition of a bed by the NHS Directorate:

A device or arrangement that may be used to permit a patient to lie down when the need to do so is a consequence of the patient's condition rather than a need for active intervention such as examination, diagnostic investigation, manipulative treatment, obstetric delivery or transport. Beds, couches, or trolleys are also counted as hospital beds where: (a) used regularly to permit a patient to lie down rather than for merely examination or transport (eg in a day surgery ward); (b) used whilst attending for a specific short procedure taking an hour or less such as endoscopy, provided that such devices are used only because of the active intervention and not because of the patient's condition; (c) used regularly as a means of support for patients needing a lengthy procedure such as renal dialysis (includes special chairs etc); (d) used regularly to allow patients to lie down after sedation. NB: a device specifically and solely for the purpose of delivery should not be counted as a bed.

The campaign certainly seems to be bearing fruit: at the first awards ceremony in 1980 there were 100 booby prizes awarded; this year there were seven.