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for clearer communication

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Network rail

Andrew Steeds


So what’s the point of this poster? It’s to reduce the number of assaults on rail staff, arguably to draw to the public’s attention the fact that this is a daily occurrence. But that information is to be found only in the smaller text in the final quarter of the poster.

Before that, the reader seems to be presented with a linguistic puzzle to sort out. This puzzle is the slightly counter-intuitive finiding that, as long as the first and last letters of words are correctly placed, it doesn’t matter what order the other letters appear in: we can still work out what’s being said. To this extent, therefore, ‘it’ does in fact make sense. But presumably that’s not what’s meant by the line ‘It doesn’t make sense’. So what is? Does it make no sense that superficially respectable-looking people are capable of acts of aggression? (And, if so, why? Is this meant to be a form of behaviour that only people who don’t wear smart suits can engage in?) Or that it’s impossible these days to judge people by their appearance? (And, if that’s the case, the way the text is presented is saying the opposite.)

Sense doesn’t come into the message, of course. What this should be saying is ‘Don’t assault our staff! If you do, we’ll prosecute you.’ Or maybe ‘Oi! You touch our staff, and we’ll come after you! That goes for you too, posh boy!’