Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Why France and Nederland didn't sign the EU Constitution

Some very good points in Bill DuBay's Plain Language at Work Newsletter— 13 June 2005.

Quote:

"SMART SHOPPERS know better than to sign anything they don't understand. Citizens of France and the Netherlands took that lesson to heart in refusing to ratify the EU Constitution. And well they should.

...

The U.S. Constitution contains 4,000 words in 11 pages and seven articles, all written at a democratic 9th-grade level.

The European Constitution is a badly organized, 855-page, 156,447-word document written at the 16th grade level. The first and most important part is missing a title. Some of the 465 articles ended up in the wrong sections.

...

The European Constitution is a bloated and botched attempt to give Europeans what they need for the development of their Union. There is no doubt about the role that bad language played in this colossal failure. The bureaucrats of the European Union have been very successful in imposing their quality manufacturing standards on the rest of the world. They have yet to learn about quality in language and how it affects their work.

As they pick over the wreckage, they should take a quick lesson in simple salesmanship: Don't pitch your goods in language that people don't understand."

Good lessons for any leader, I'm sure. How can anyone follow you if they don't know what you're on about?

2 Comments:

At 9:28 AM, Blogger Borscht said...

One must keenly establish a distinction between the following two sorts of EU member, dear Simeon.

1) New EU States (the ten new countries who joined only in the last two years) --> their desire to want to see several of the Constitution's sections was much greater -- and were pushing for its acceptance to a much greater degree -- the formalisation, as it were, of their involvement in something so radically different than their totalitarian pasts (as concerns the old Bloc countries).

2) Old-world Europe --> e.g. France, Germany, The Netherlands...yes, these nations were acutely aware that many of the clauses in the Document itself were titled heavily in favour of newer nations and would demand more from them economically, for instance. They roundly rejected it. They were satisfied with the way things were...

Which kind of makes me wonder -- what a HUGE WASTE of time and money in even commencing the Constitutional proceedings in the EU -- for if one of the Old Guard members doesn't approve of the document (which now 2 such nations have), is there any chance that any of the other Old World (UK, Italy, Ireland) countries are going to do so?

Furthermore, I'd like to know something else...we're boiling down the acceptance of a foundational document into simple terminology/phraseology? The selling, as it were, of a federation? "Buy now," "10% Off," or "Buy One, Get the 2nd Free?" --> isn't this ludicrous?

I find so...

Back to the Drawing Board for the EU, indeed.

 
At 6:02 PM, Blogger Simon said...

> Furthermore, I'd like to know something else...we're boiling down the acceptance of a foundational document into simple terminology/phraseology? The selling, as it were, of a federation? "Buy now," "10% Off," or "Buy One, Get the 2nd Free?" --> isn't this ludicrous?

This is a confusion that Plain Language professionals often face. Making language easy to understand is not the same as dumbing it down - yet people get them confused all the time.

Have you read the full article linked to? It cites the American Constitution as an example of clear - not dumb - language. If the Americans can do it, surely the Europeans can? :)

 

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