Recently, we explained the importance of writing in plain English, and now we are going to show you how to write in plain English. Writing in plain English is beneficial for you as a writer, as it’s faster to write, and for your readers, as its much faster to read. So, there are 3 rules to writing in plain English; Keep it clear, concise and simple. The aim is to write in a way that gets the message that your sharing into the world and into the minds of many, in the quickest and easiest way.
Plain English can be used in a variety of written communications, such as leaflets, blogs, flyers, poster, and other forms of advertisements, and is great when used in industry specific writing, such as product policies. In fact, most of the UK’s insurance companies create policies that are explained fully in plain English.
But how do you write in plain English?
Well, It’s not as simple as you’d first think, but that’s only because we have all become accustomed to writing long and complex sentences which are full of jargon and fancy fluff. So, let’s strip it back and get back to the basics.
1) Keep Your Sentences Nice and Short.
For many people, shorter sentences are easier to read at a glance, and there is more of a chance that the information they read will be retained. The average length of a sentence is roughly 20 words or so, give or take. This means that every word counts as there is no space for jargon or babble. The lack of words however, doesn’t mean you have to compromise on writing style. Sentences can still ooze personality, just in a much punchier way that gets to the point.
2) Simplify The Content As Much As Possible.
Using plain English means to keep your reader in mind, and to be conscious of their variety of needs. Remember, not one reader is the same as another, so as a writer you need to try and find the common ground and cater to as many readers as possible, without it compromising the content.
A good way to do this is to split the content up into sub-sections, making the content appear tidy, neat and less distracting to the reader. Splitting the content up also allows you to highlight the most important information, and guide your reader to it straight away.
3) Avoid Jargon
This may seem very obvious, but it can take a while to un-train yourself and stop using industry specific jargon, which when used only alienates your readers.
4) Use An Active Voice
As we have mentioned before, writing in plain English doesn’t mean that your content has to be lifeless and boring. It can still be fun, lively and appealing, especially when written in an active voice. For example “Jerry picked up the coffee”, is an active sentence because the sentence follows the Active rule (Subject–Verb–Object), as opposed to the passive rule (Object–Verb–Subject), which would read “The coffee was picked up by Jerry”.
An active voice brings the reader closer to the action and is much easier to read. Although, of course at times a passive voice is needed, but use it sparingly.
5) Use Everyday Language That’s Suited to Your Audience
This tip requires you to keep updated on the literal word on the street. What is everyone saying? What’s the new linguistical trend? Is selfie still current or has it already been replaced? Keep your ears open and reflect what language you here back to the audience you heard it from. It’s a handy trick to get a message noticed by a general, but also specific audience. However, be careful! Trendy words have a habit of changing their meaning depending on the context they are said in and who say’s it.
So don’t publish an article targeted at an older generation which advises “how to stop your friends from being salty”, because it’ll wash over their heads completely.
Follow these simple tips and you’ll be well on your way to writing in plain english once again.
Why not sip that coffee a little longer and indulge in another read?