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The blog from Andrew Sharp. August 

August 25, 2009
Author: Eve-Marie Morgo

KISS and train announcements. KISS is the famous “Keep It Simple” acronym. It applies to announcements about trains too!

A year or two back, one train company in the UK had the annoying habit of prefacing all announcements with the words, “Please be advised that…”. Not only is this completely meaningless verbiage, it’s most confusing. Imagine you are an Italian visitor with only a little English. By the time you’ve worked out what these four words are and tried – unsuccessfully – to decide what if anything they mean, you’ve missed the rest of the announcement and the fact that your train is leaving from a different platform. And this is the part of the message which actually matters!

By all means use some kind of “Call attention” sound at the start of announcements (and I do like the gong which prefaces announcements on German train stations) – but use a musical sound rather than a meaningless string of words!

This particular string, incidentally, derives from commercial jargon in use in Charles Dickens’ time. Then, letters from commercial firms to their clients began with a respectful, “We beg to advise you that …”. That in itself is a misuse of the verb “to advise”: it isn’t a synonym for “to inform”, which is what the letter was doing.  

Another pet hate is First Capital Connect, on which I commute. I am routinely told that, “This train will be formed of 8 coaches”. Will be? Surely it is already – I’m not at the terminus! “The train IS formed of 8 coaches”. And why say “formed of” – why not just “has”?  

Keep It Simple - especially on a line serving two major London airports as well as feeding into London’s Eurostar terminal, and which therefore just might carry a few passengers whose first language is not English!

Being (in case you hadn’t already guessed) something of a pedant where language is concerned, I also baulk at, “This train is now approaching Edinburgh”. Actually, guys, it’s been approaching it since it left London four and a half hours ago! The big deal is that it’s now arriving at Edinburgh – so why not say so!

Buses in Porto can say “Next stop Oriente”: trains in Sweden can say “Next: Stockholm” – who needs more than that?  

Do you have any pet grievances or irritations like this? And if one of these is people like me who draw your attention to annoying phrases and make you think about them every time you hear them, rather than letting them just drift over you, I’m not sure that I want to know!

I hope you enjoyed reading this: I look forward to your feedback. Andrew  


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the battle for the customer

The Battle for the Customer will ask how rail can use it to strengthen customer focus and look to other industries for best practices in terms of the strategies and mindsets that drive change.