Frequent riders of Hong Kong’s MTR should be quite familiar with this announcement:
Please move along the platform to the rear/front of the train for easier boarding. Thank you.
I’ve long found this sentence rather clumsy. The most puzzling bit is “move along the platform”. There is really no need to stress that because, how else are passengers supposed to move along? Everytime I hear that, I feel compelled to check if there are shortcut takers crawling through the airducts above, in the Aliens fashion.
“For easier boarding” is vague. It can mean the absence of a whole range of difficulties: gaps too wide, train floor higher than platform etc. You may say everyone understands it to mean “less crowded”. Then, why not just go straight to the point and say that. After all, this is why we tell people to move.
If possible, drop “please”. This is too much courtesy for idiots who fail to realise the train is longer than the three carriages in the middle. Start with the imperative form “move” to make it more forceful.
Why so much fuss over a simple announcement? Because it is played at deafening volume and in loops. So the simpler it is, the better for our peace of mind, especially when queue jumpers, people pushers and door blockers all threaten to destroy our sanity. People will be less likely to exchange greetings to each others’ mothers just because someone stepped on another’s toes.
Yet such discussion of improvement might still be unnecessary after all, for one simple reason: people do it without being told. I’ve never actually seen people leaving sections of the platform empty; they get filled up naturally. It’s in the blood of Hong Kong people. Telling Hong Kongers to grab an open opportunity is like telling the Japanese to eat fish raw.
So the best way to improve the sentence might be just to scrap it entirely.
I end this post by recounting how a London tube driver dealt with this kind of situation. It was during busy hours and passengers were clogging up the middle platforms. Out came his angry voice from the PA system:
“WILL SOMEONE PLEASE MOVE UP THE TRAIN? IT’S PRACTICALLY EMPTY OVER THERE!”