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Terin IzilEducator
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Many people may be guilty of incomprehensible or overly-elaborate language on occasion—but who are the repeat offenders? In small groups, see if you can identify one or two public figures or groups who fit the bill and draw up the charges. Make a “Wanted” poster that includes two or three examples, for each, of especially obscure communication. Also, offer your own explanation(s) for why this individual or group is so hooked on the $10 words.

For inspiration, see how lawyers, medical professionals and federal workers are policing their own professions’ use of language: www.clarity-international.net (the lawyers) www.plainlanguage.gov (the feds) www.cdc.gov/healthliteracy/pdf/Simply_Put.pdf (the meds)

To become an American citizen, the U.S. government requires people to pass a test that includes several questions about the U.S. Constitution. Think about just the preamble to the Constitution (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html), which is full of $10 words. What would it sound like in simpler terms? And could you preserve its meaning if you ‘translated’ it in this way? Create this ‘translation’ and compare it to the original. Share it with others and note their reactions.

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