Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

Plain English

A while ago, I saw an English insurance policy (I think it was) and was struck by how clear the language seemed to me, compared to what I’m used to in German.

I don’t remember the details, but the language style was along the lines of (if it had been for a mortgage), “If you do not pay your instalments on time, you are at risk of losing your house.” (Which in German could be, “Wenn Sie Ihre Raten nicht rechtzeitig bezahlen, könnte es sein, dass Sie Ihr Haus verlieren / …, laufen Sie Gefahr, Ihr Haus zu verlieren.”)

Whereas I think a German policy would tend to use language along the lines of “Verspätete Rückzahlung Ihres Darlehens kann den Verlust Ihrer Immobilie zur Folge haben” (“Tardy loan repayment can have as a consequence the loss of your real estate”), heavy on noun phrases and legal language.

The English seemed quite a bit clearer, and I wonder whether the slight loss of precision by use of normal language rather than legal terms was such a price to pay for making things more understandable to the layman who is asked to sign.

Tags: english, language, plain english
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