WHAT IS PLAIN ENGLISH
Plain English is a writing style that readers can easily understand.
Plain English combines clear, concise expressions, simple sentence structure and a design that is easy to navigate.
BENEFITS OF PLAIN ENGLISH
- Precision – By using fewer words you decrease the risk of vagueness. You can be accurate without using formal language.
- Clarity – Studies have shown that plain English can increase understanding by up to 90%.
- Readability – Good writing is easy to understand in one sitting. Dressing up language to sound authoritative makes the text less readable.
- Translatability – A translation can only be as good as the original: starting from a plain English text makes it easier to convey the meaning.
- Efficiency – Writing less saves you time and money. A shorter text is cheaper to translate.
- Accountability – Using the passive voice makes it harder to call anyone to account.
PRINCIPLES OF PLAIN ENGLISH WRITING
- Adapt your style to the needs of your readers
- Use short words
- Use short sentences (15-20 words)
- Use short paragraphs (2-3 sentences)
- Use the active voice
- Cut out clutter and useless words
- Avoid jargon, clichés and abbreviations
- Explain technical terms in simple language
- Use capital letters only when it is essential
- Use simple and sincere language
- Write the way you speak
- Spell check your text
- Use clear design and layout principles: wide margins, dot points, headings and subheadings and generous line spacing
Next time you write something, try putting things down the way you would actually say them.
- How much does the reader already know about this subject?
- What information do I actually need to give?
- What tone should I use?
- Am I giving instructions or advice?