Monday, March 23, 2009

Topic: Critical Thinking.

High School Topic

10-second review: On behalf of the Doublespeak program of the NCTE, Walker Gibson spends time reflecting on a recent insert in a bill from an electric company.

Title: “Doublespeak in Advertising.” W Gibson. English Journal (February 1975), 14-15. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: The insert was placed in a bill in 1975, but similar inserts appear in plenty of electric bills in 2009, as “caps” on electric bills are due to expire in the next several years. The insert says how much the company is doing to conserve energy and its generalized plans for the future and concludes with, “America will have come a long way toward assuring an ample supply of energy for generations to come.” But the real message in the soft-sounding, comforting verbiage is, “Let the electric company alone” and they will take care of you—and your money!

Comment: We all get those self-serving messages—and not just from the electric company. The length of such messages alone causes me to trash them. And then there are the inserts about change of terms in credit card regulations. They charge me more and try to make me feel that they are doing me a favor. Of course, I know what’s going on and the real purposes of such mouthwash. I just look at the length of the text and I throw the insert out. I can use my time better than to read page after page of fine-print with a lot of self-serving rhetoric, the vocabulary of which sends me reeling.

I actually read a credit card insert on change of terms once, noted the changes of terms, didn’t like them and promptly canceled the card. Of course, I had to write my request for cancellation and send it via the U.S. Postal Service. A telephone call would not do. The credit card issuer acknowledged my cancellation and in a sympathetic tone expressed concern that now, if I wanted to use their card, I would have to apply for it all over again. Sob!

I wonder what would happen if credit cards were required by the government to send inserts about terms of service in plain English? RayS.

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