Plain English

Plain English refers to the writing and setting out of essential information in a way that gives a co-operative, motivated person a good chance of understanding the document at first reading, and in the same sense that the writer meant it to be understood.

This means pitching the language at a level of sophistication that suits the readers and using appropriate structure and layout to help them navigate through the document. It does not mean always using simple words at the expense of the most accurate words or writing whole documents in kindergarten language.

It is twenty-five years since Martin Cutts, director of the Plain Language Commission, conceived the original Plain English Campaign and co-founded it with a public shredding of official forms in Parliament Square on 26 July 1979. Plain English is the result of Twenty-five years of battling gobbledygook.

Seeking out unusual words or phrases and replacing them with plainer alternatives, striking out useless words – Wordiness often comes from trying to make a simple procedure sound, keeping the cross-references to the minimumimpressive and Thinking before writing are few of the points that should be kept in attention to make it simple.

Here are our top tips for keeping your writing user-friendly:

  • Keep Sentences Short.
  • Use words your readers are likely to understand.
  • Use only as many words as you really need.
  • Prefer the active voice.
  • Use the clearest, liveliest verb to express your thoughts.
  • Use Vertical Lists to make complex materil understandable.
  • Keep Electronic Text Communication simple.
  • Put your points positively when you can.
  • Reduce cross-references to the minimum.
  • Try to avoid sexist usage.
  • Avoidable English Errors are so many.
  • Avoid fusty first sentences and formula finishes.
  • Put accurate punctuation at the heart of your writing.
  • Avoid being enslaved by seven writing myths.
  • Plan Before You Write.
  • Organize your material in a simple way.
  • Consider different ways of setting out your information.
  • Devote special effort to producing lucid instructions.
  • Use clear layout to present your plain words.

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