Writing in plain English doesn’t mean over-simplifying your message or patronising your readers. Instead, it means using everyday words in place of jargon, or official sounding terms. It helps readers understand your message quickly and easily.
At Quadroyale we work to adapt the content we produce so that it is as inclusive as possible. These are some of the key reminder points that we use to help with Plain English.
- Write sentences that are not longer than 20-25 words
- Include only one main idea in each paragraph
- Establish a conversational tone by imagining you are speaking to someone
- Avoid jargon, acronyms and impersonal corporate language
- Use simple words rather than their longer equivalent: ‘many’ not ‘a large proportion of’
- Don’t try to include every single detail – only write what readers need to know
Will I Be Understood?
- Write in the active, not passive voice. A hit B is more direct than B was hit by A
- Ask yourself: Will your audience understand your message or can it be simplified further?
- Give clear instructions: ‘Contact us’ is more direct than ‘Grateful if you would please contact us’
- Use bullets and vertical lists to break up text and make information more accessible
- Use sub-headings to present information in a logical manner
- When including hyperlinks in electronic documents, don’t mention that you are providing a link (ie ‘click here). Instead, describe the information you are linking to or just include the link address
- When using hyperlinks or making reference to the web, use user-friendly addresses
These key points will help with creating simpler content but there are many resources that can help with simple communication. Lynda (part of LinkedIn) offers an online Business Skills course in Plain English for "writing that is clear and straightforward, targeted at the appropriate reading level, and free of jargon, wordiness, and clichés". It is a great place to start.