December 3rd, 2013 .

Full of wind

Max Morden

I recently received a brochure on wind energy, produced by a reputable communications firm.  The brochure was given to me as an example of “plain language.”

Plain language is a term used to describe writing that’s clear, so people can understand it on the first read through.  People in our business talk about plain language all the time, but I sometimes think that they don’t really get it.

When I opened up the brochure, the first thing I saw was the caption  “Avian Considerations.” This was followed by the sentence:  “While the relative contribution to overall avian mortality from wind turbines is extremely low relative to other sources of avian mortality, the wind energy industry is committed to continuous research and improvement in our understanding of avian interaction with wind turbines.”

What’s plain about this language? I had to read it a couple of times before I realized that “avian considerations” had something to do with birds.

Of course, birds are a touchy subject when it comes to wind energy. Protestors are quick to point out that turbines kill birds. But does it really help to obscure the issue by using vague, mincing words like “avian interactions with wind turbines?”

Why not make the case for wind turbines in something that really is plain language, like this: “Research shows that high rise buildings, cars, and transmission lines kill far more birds than wind turbines.  Still, we’re making improvements so that turbines pose less threat to birds.”

There – I bet you got the meaning in one go.

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