1/06/2008

The 'undue' influence of incorrect word choices



Eagle-eyed Tom, Mr. Rewrite's Texas connection, spots this Hillary Clinton gaffe from last night's Democratic debate, via The New York Times:
"Words are not actions," she said. "And as beautifully presented and passionately felt as they are, they are not action. You know, what we've got to do is translate talk into action and feeling into reality. I have a long record of doing that, of taking on the very interests that you have just rightly excoriated because of the overdue influence that they have in our government."
Mr. Rewrite posted the YouTube video above. Sure enough, Clinton says overdue.

Unless she thinks that special interest influence was too long in coming, Clinton meant "undue influence." Here's the deal ...

Undue means "inappropriate" or "improper."

Overdue means "too long awaited."

Now, Mr. Rewrite can only imagine the pressure of appearing on national television with your party's nomination on the line. But it's never good to need a (sic) in your money quote.

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Today's paper has an interesting article on an effort to remove vague, bureaucratic language from Arizona government. It's modeled on a supposedly successful "plain talk" initiative in Washington state. The Arizona Department of Revenue is taking the lead.

This before and after is offered as an example of how government communication can be improved:

Before: "The Arizona Department of Revenue has received your Transaction Privilege Tax (TPT) license/withholding registration application form and found that insufficient information has been provided to allow us to process your request."

After: "We cannot process your license application because required information is missing."
Here's hoping it catches on.

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