This sign stands in Kennedy Park, Eyre Square, Galway. As I passed, it cried out to be criticised, and who am I to yield right of wail?
First: Why write “The playing of football” instead of simply “Playing football”? If it was an attempt to sound more authoritative, it failed. It sounds awkward and turgid. It’s an example (albeit a minor one) of what Ernest Gowers called abstractitis. This condition is widespread and habit-forming, and it looks poorly on municipal signs, which ought to convey information plainly and unfussily.
Next: Why is there an elaborate request that people obey the order? Was the font too small, and was padding therefore required to fill the blank space? Maybe the second line sprung from gobbledegook’s formidable ability to infiltrate the simplest of messages. Can you imagine if every sign accommodated this kind of prolixity? Instead of “No entry” we would be blessed with:
“Entry into this building is prohibited. In the interest of security your co-operation in complying with this order is requested.”
Instead of “Slow children” (already a strange sign, but no matter):
“The deceleration of your vehicle is mandatory. In the interest of children’s lives your co-operation in complying with this order is requested.”
Instead of “Keep off the grass”:
“The taking of walks on this grass is prohibited. In the interest of – oh, we don’t know why. But your co-operation in complying with this order is requested.”
As an attempt at politeness, it neither works nor helps. What would work is if such verbiage were omitted outright, and what would help is if more green areas were provided for outdoor activities in the city. (But the latter is an argument for elsewhere, and involves many more parties and factors.) Even if the Council had a good reason for their vague justification, they didn’t have to half-fill the sign with gobbledegook. They could have appended “in the interest of the public” to the first line and left it at that. So instead of:
“The playing of football on this green area is prohibited. In the interest of the public your co-operation in complying with this order is requested.”
they could have written, in 14 words instead of 25:
“Playing football on this green area is prohibited in the interest of the public.”
or plainer still, in five words:
“No football in this park.”
Whether or not the public agree with the decree, they are likely to appreciate being addressed directly and not having their time wasted by logorrhoeic fudge. There’s more to consider than linguistic clarity and the public’s time.