A while ago, a HK client of mine told me "I am putting together a list of people who are willing to volunteer for charity work. Should I ask my colleagues if I can include them in the list, or if I can include them on the list?"
In fact, both the expressions -- include in the list and include on the list -- can be used in English. They pretty much mean the same thing, but they have slightly different implications because of the different prepositions they use. e to edit.
Today's blog post is about the very common misuse of just one verb in Hong Kong -- 'bring'.
You will see variations on the sign in the picture all around Hong Kong. For many Hong Kong English users, there is nothing wrong here. The verb 'bring' means to carry or transport something, doesn't it? We want people to carry or transport their litter back to their homes, and not leave it in our Country Parks, right? So what's wrong with the sign?
On the Cygnet Facebook page, I challenged readers to locate 5 problems with the English sentences in this short paragraph on a poster put out by the Indoor Air Quality Information Centre. Here's my list. If you think I've missed any, let me know!
The word 'welcome' in English is an extremely useful one, but it has number of different forms and usages that can easily confuse Hong Kong speakers. You can see this confusion in the following sign:
What exactly does it mean, that sentence that reads "Hong Kong residents and local organisations are welcomed to produce a 13-episode radio programme"? Common sense tells us that this is an invitation for Hong Kong people and organisations to try their hand at producing a radio series. But is that what 'are welcomed' means?
People often complain about Hong Kong's deteriorating standards of English. If you are a Hong Kong user of English, you may worry about your own ability to communicate clearly and effectively in English. Perhaps you suspect that your English communication skills are way below those of most native English speakers.
However, a new study has some good news for Hong Kong English users -- it turns out most of you may actually be better than most native English speakers in communicating clearly and effectively! The details are in a fascinating article recently posted on the BBC's website, 'Native English speakers are the world's worst communicators'. The full article can be found here:
How can this be? Much of it comes down to the different ways in which native and non-native English speakers actually use English.
The recent government ‘Appreciate Hong Kong’ campaign came with a slogan that you
can still see around, splashed across bus bodies and billboards:
In Hong Kong we trust, we love, we appreciate
According to Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam, writing on the Appreciate Hong Kong webpage, the purpose of the campaign is “to consolidate the forces from every sector and instil the positive energy to the public from various aspects.” (http://www.appreciatehk.gov.hk/eng/)
There’s no doubt that in English, the words trust, love and appreciate all carry the ‘positive energy’ that the Chief Secretary is so keen on. Unfortunately though, the impossible grammar of the slogan brings with it a lot of negative energy too!
Press or media releases are important ways of getting information widely distributed by the media. They follow a quite specific format, and this blog posts highlights a few of the most important features connected with starting a media release.
1. State the date and ensure the first sentence refers to it
'In future' or 'in the future' --what a difference it makes to add the word 'the'! But what exactly is the difference? After all, we don't have this sort of alternative with the expression 'in the past'. There is no context in which we can sat 'in past' (without the definite article).
The difference between 'in future' and 'in the future' is a subtle one. A simple summary is as follows:
You can see these techniques at work in a plain language rewrite of traffic penalty notices in HK’s laws. Which is the more readable, more inviting text?
Traditional legislative style
(1) Where a notice under section 15 has been served on any person, the Commissioner of Police may, at any time before the commencement of any proceedings against that person in respect of the contravention specified in the notice and whether or not an order under section 16 has been applied for, but before such order is made, withdraw that notice, and may serve on that person a notice in writing informing him that the notice has been withdrawn.
(2) Where a notice under section 15 had been withdrawn under this section and any sum of money has been paid pursuant to the notice, the Director of Accounting Services shall, on demand by the person on whom the notice was served, repay to that person the sum so paid.
Have you ever read the fine print of an iTunes license agreement before pressing “I agree”? Chances are you haven’t. Few of us have time to wade through its dense legal text, written at times in shouty full caps style.
Fortunately a growing movement of writers, lawyers and designers are taking on the challenge to simplify the complex documents that run our lives.
One young designer reduced the 4,137-word iTunes agreement to 381 words in six “human readable” slides.
Corporate communications expert Alan Siegel responded to President Obama’s challenge to make a simple one-page consumer credit agreement. His work went viral in his TED talk.
Here in Hong Kong, the Department of Justice is committed to making legislation, one of the most forbidding of texts, more user-friendly. It drafts laws in plain language to make them as simple and clear as possible, without taking away from precision and substance. Embedded in this endeavour is the noble objective that you don’t have to be a lawyer to understand your laws.
All these inspiring efforts are part of the global move towards plain language.
About this blog
This blog arises from keeping an eye on English in Hong Kong. I often use signs, notices and advertisements that I see as starting points to write about English issues that commonly challenge Hong Kong writers.