“Good prose is like a windowpane”
— George Orwell
Have you ever had to read a letter from a business or government department three or four times to work out what the writer is trying to say?
Perhaps you have read documents produced by your own organisation in which the meaning is far from clear.
Often when we write, we find ourselves using stock phrases, internal jargon or words designed to impress rather than communicate effectively. The result is confusing text that only serves to alienate the reader.
Whatever your purpose, the message is more likely to reach your audience if it is written in plain English.
What is plain English?
Plain English (also referred to as ‘plain language’) is a style of writing that puts its message across clearly and directly so that it is immediately understood.
Writing in plain English means writing for your readers rather than for yourself. It requires the writer to choose the simplest words and structure possible to convey the message without compromising the meaning.
Writing in plain English offers savings that can be measured:
- It reduces the volume of information you send to clients.
- It improves prospect conversion rates.
In some situations, failure to use plain English can be disastrous. For example, instructions for using dangerous equipment or responding to an emergency must avoid any ambiguity.
Many customers and staff whose first language is not English will particularly appreciate your efforts to avoid the more verbose and confusing elements of the language.
The example below demonstrates how plain English principles can be used to make complex writing clear.
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Plain English version
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Free plain English sample rewrite
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Business writing training
We can train your team to develop their plain English skills. Our Fundamentals of Clear Writing course is a half-day interactive seminar that provides participants with concrete, practical plain English writing techniques they can apply in the workplace.