Plain Words by Sir Ernest Gowers

THIS book was written at the invitation of the Treasury. Its scope is more limited than its title might he thought to imply. It is concerned particularly with the use of English by officials. I do not of course suggest that the principles governing the use of English for official purposes are different from those that govern its use for any other purpose. But there are some faults to which official writing is specially prone, and others from which it is comparatively free. That is why I have said nothing about some subjects that would naturally find a place in any general treatise on the use of English, and have elaborated others at perhaps tedious length.

With very few exceptions (and these are indicated) my examples of the use of English, good and bad, are taken from documents written by officials during the last few years. By "officials" I mean not only those commonly called "civil servants", but also members of the Navy, Army and Air Force, Local Government officials, and the staffs of public bodies such as the Railways.

Much has been written about the use of English and I gratefully record my indebtedness to the many writers from whom I have borrowed passages that said what I wanted to say better than I could hope to say it myself. I have received ready help from many Government Departments, and my thanks are due especially to Mr. A. P. Sinker, Director of Training and Education at the Treasury, to Mr. W. A. B. Hamilton of the Ministry of Education, Miss Oliver of the Board of Trade, and Mr. H. V. Rhodes, C.B., of the Ministry of National Insurance, as well as to Miss Joyce Prince for her secretarial help. Above all I have to thank Mr. Wyn Griffith of the Board of Inland Revenue for the great interest that he has taken in the preparation of the book. It owes much to the fertile suggestions and candid criticisms of one who is both an official of wide experience and a professional writer of rare skill in the precise and delicate handling of words.