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Oxford Guide to Plain English Paperback – 23 Aug 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; 2 edition (23 Aug. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199233454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199233458
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 1 x 10.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 655,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

Martin Cutts is a writer, editor, and teacher. He founded the Plain English Campaign in 1979, and in 1994 he established the Plain Language Commission. He is a leading voice in the international plain language movement.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By windsor_lad on 27 May 2006
Format: Paperback
I have been running writing courses for over a decade and have looked through many books on clear writing. Overall, I think this is the most helpful. I recommend it to attendees.

It even has a section on how to manage colleagues' writing. Many people who come on a writing course want their boss to attend too; to learn the real 'rules'!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Padavi on 25 May 2009
Format: Paperback
I bought copies for my daughters who both use them at work and swear by this very handy and accessible guide. As an English teacher, I have a shelf full of grammar books and dictionaries but was so impressed I bought one for myself too. I am recommending it to all my students. 'The Plain Words' is still my 'Bible' though!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By P. Charmoy on 5 July 2008
Format: Paperback
The book is clear and concise. I learnt a lot, and the content is clearly applicable to more than English. But probably the crowning touch is that Mr. Cutts managed to write a book that is quite funny to read. Anybody having to write occasionally should have a copy.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Adam Nohejl on 3 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
The advice offered is usually sound, but the topics aren't treated evenly: Some pages are filled with waffle, while important points aren't discussed in enough details. I apologize for the long review that follows, but I have tried to give some concrete examples of the weak points. A guide that I would recommend instead is Strunk and White's 'Elements of Style', which is much more concise, and while it doesn't discuss the same range of topics, it is infinitely clearer and more useful. It also promotes plain English (and does so in a more sensible way, I would say). I thought that I would learn something new from Cutts' 'Plain English', which is more than twice as long and includes chapters about planning, revising, email, and web, but the corresponding points were less clear, and the ones not present in 'Elements of Style' were nearly useless. Here are some examples of what disappointed me:

* In some cases no useful advice is given.

(1) The whole chapter about punctuation lacks a clear systematical approach. 'The Elements of Style' by Strunk and White give much clearer advice on about 13 pages. Instead of clearly explaining guidelines for structuring sentences using punctuation, the 'Plain English' guide includes unnecessary examples of misuse of punctuation and then discusses relatively unimportant issues, for instance on ellipsis (p. 95):

"There should be three dots in the ellipsis, not two, five, or seven. However, a book reviewer tells me that when a phrase trails off unfinished, the US practice is to use four dots." [...] "Some typesetters insist on adding a fourth dot when a sentence ends with an ellipsis [...]".

Instead the author should have chosen one approach and explained it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Why do letters from my insurance company end with the anodyne statement: " Please don't hesitate to contact us should we be able to be of further assistance" or " I trust that you have been fully informed". Is stodgy-sounding officialese a standard course in insurance school? Luckily, official writing does not have to be as stilted as my insurance company's. This wonderful book, The Oxford Guide to Plain English, is a breath of fresh air.

With large doses of wit, Martin Cutts deflates the notion--which most of us learned in school--that the passive voice is the best way to communicate. The active voice, considered too 'forward', too 'in your face' was discredited all my life; however, with Cutts, the active voice in me was re-awakened. This book provides a simple, terse overview of the best way to write: in plain, abecedarian English. After reading The Oxford Guide to Plain English, I cannot read official letters--from the local government and the insurance companies--in the same way. Martin Cutts does an excellent job of reminding the reader that the best form of communication is direct, reader-centric and playful. For this achievement, this book deserves four stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Molly Malone on 5 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback
I saw this guide mentioned in The Times and bought it for my son, in the hope that it would improve the appalling standard of his e-mails.

The book provides excellent advice on writing e-mails - as well as letter writing - but only time will tell if he acts on this advice!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andreas Kirsch on 25 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
I read it while writing my bachelor thesis, and thanks to it I could improve its readability and clarity a lot. It's an easy and fun read. I didn't know about the concept of "Plain English" before but now I totally embrace it :)
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By Duncurin VINE VOICE on 6 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This amazing little book is almost a metaphor for the language about which it seeks to enlighten. It's easy to read, beautifully presented and places precise facts clearly and succinctly. Most importantly, it allows anyone with an interest in this subject to assemble sentences that are unambiguous, easy to understand and yet are a delight to read. I used to worry that pursuit of learning in this most wonderful of languages would mark me as something of a pedant; but this slim volume plots a course between the detail that would be excessive and the knowledge that I seek. And, of course, just like our language, can be summed up with just one word. Sublime!
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