You hear a lot of talk these days about using Plain English, particularly in business or technical writing. Yet there are many things in everyday life that on the surface seem to be written in Plain English but upon closer examination are not.
My neighbour, Grace, is in her late seventies and was born in Italy. Although she has lived here for over fifty years, she still has trouble understanding written English. I can’t say I blame her, some English usage is downright confusing.
Grace’s daughter is an integral part of her life but she has gone away for the weekend, so she asked me if I would keep an eye on her Mum for the next few days. This afternoon we encountered a problem with the written word which I was hoping you, my most knowledgeable blogging friends, could help me with.
Grace was put on new medication this week. By the looks of things she takes myriad medication. I am not quite sure what the new medication is for but the directions are a little confusing. She has to take two tablets in the morning every three days.
She took the medication for the first time on Wednesday. Neither she nor I are sure if the next dose is due today or tomorrow. Does every three days mean – take the medication again on the third day or take the medication after three days have passed?
If it means take it on the third day, then it is due today. If it means take it after three days have passed, it is due tomorrow.
I rang the doctor. It was his day off. The nurse thought the medication was probably due today but told me to ring the pharmacist just to be sure. The pharmacist told me it was due tomorrow. I don’t want to make a mistake with this because it also says on the bottle in scary bold print DO NOT OVERDOSE.
So what does every three days actually mean?
Take it on the third day?
Or take it on the fourth day?
We decided to go with the pharmacist and take it tomorrow. The nurse says she will get the doctor to call Grace first thing in the morning to clarify. I hope he has a better understanding of Plain English than I do. Sheesh.