Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Remembering Alfred Kahn, Plain English Champion

Recently, Alfred  Kahn passed away at age 93. He was a professor of economics, the deregulating Chair of the old Civil Aeronautics Board, and a champion of plain English before the cause was fashionable. As Chair of the CAB, he began his reign with a celebrated memo to his staff offering this observation: “If you can’t explain what you’re doing in plain English, you’re probably doing something wrong.”  He further advised:

 Every time you’re tempted to use ‘herein’ or ‘hereinabout’ or, similarly, ‘therein,’ ‘thereinabove,’ or ‘thereinunder,’ and the corresponding  variants, try ‘here’ or ‘there’ or ‘above’ or ‘below’ and see if it doesn’t make just as much sense.”

 Here is Robert Frank’s tribute to Fred Kahn in the New York Times.




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