METM10 plenary talk

Editing and clear writing: understanding the European Commission's campaign

Emma Wagner, Luxembourg, Luxembourg

In my talk I shall speak about the place of editing in the European Commission's work, and the purpose and content of the Clear Writing campaign launched in 2010. Where French was once the lingua franca of the European Union institutions, English has now taken over. The need for editing has grown, especially with the recent enlargement of the EU to 27 Member States and the concomitant decline in the number of English native speakers on the payroll. The Clear Writing campaign has ambitious aims: to improve the EU's image and legal accuracy, create efficiency savings and supply better originals for translators. Building on an in-house survey of staff ideas, needs and perceptions, the campaign identified the most promising areas for action. Its flagship publication -˜How to Write Clearly' sets out ten top tips for clear writing and is available in all of the EU's 23 official languages. The fact that translators of the booklet were able to adapt the tips to each language demonstrates, we hope, that they are language-independent. To produce the guide, the Commission drew on the work of experts in plain language movements worldwide, and the campaign both acknowledges and encourages national contributions. As the campaign slogan goes: Clear writing is everyone's business.


Emma Wagner, M.A. (Cantab.), Dip. Trans. & Interp. (Bath), and a fellow of the UK's Institute of Translation and Interpreting, has been active in translation for 39 years, mainly at the European Commission, where she is now working in the Directorate General for Translation. An experienced trainer, Emma is presently in the Luxembourg section of the Editing Unit, working to improve the readability of documents and helping to organise the Clear Writing Campaign.