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Plain English writing

“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.

Original version

This work is the property of Acme Enterprises and is protected by copyright. The work and information herein is confidential and may not be copied, used or disclosed except with the current written authority of and in a manner permitted by Acme Enterprises.

Plain English version

This work belongs to Acme Enterprises. You may not make use of it without our written permission.

Free plain English sample rewrite

See the difference plain English can make. Send Red Pony a sample document and we will return a sample paragraph from your document rewritten in clear, unambiguous English.

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.

Further information

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