Jan Renkema

Jan Renkema

Jan Renkema (1948) is emeritus professor of text quality at Tilburg University. He studied general linguistics at the Free University of Amsterdam and in 1981 he wrote his Ph.D. thesis about The Language of The Hague, an enquiry into the type of language characteristically used by the civil service. In the course of his academic career he was, among other things, linguistic adviser of the Dutch parliament (1975-1978), associate professor of cultural sciences at the Open University (1986-1989).

Renkema is the author of the Schrijfwijzer (1979), a guide to clear and correct writing. Of this book almost 500,000 copies have been sold, and it is still widely used. A new and revised edition was published in 2020. For about ten years (1977-1986) he served as the editor of the monthly journal Onze Taal (‘Our Language’) and he was co-founder of the Dutch Language Advisory Service. After the Dutch spelling reform of 1995 he wrote an introduction to the new official word list and a pamphlet in which he set out his own tolerant views about spelling.

He did his research primarily for government agencies, starting with a critical analysis of the Queen’s Speech of 1975, in co-operation with the Speaker of the Second Chamber of Parliament. That was followed by an investigation of the clarity of government texts, for example tax forms, with publications like Taal mag geen belasting zijn (‘Language should not be taxing’). He was also President of the International Association for the Study of the Dutch Language, the IVN (2006-2015), and he is an honorary member of the writers’ club Tekstnet.

Renkema was also one of the supervisors of the New Dutch Bible Translation (2004), and together with Pius Drijvers he published a new translation of the Song of Songs. Onder woorden (‘Below the words’) is a collection of interviews about silence. He also interviewed politicians in Wat bezielt het Binnenhof? (‘What makes The Hague tick?’).

He founded en English language journal Document Design (2009), which was later continued as Information Design. For fellow-teachers and students he wrote Tekst en uitleg, an introduction to the study of texts, which was also translated into English as Discourse Studies, and later also into Japanese, Korean and Spanish. In 2009 a special Chinese edition appeared. Together with Christoph Schubert in 2018 he published a new edition of this manual.

All publications by Jan Renkema