A Newsletter Dedicated to Helping Businesspeople Write Smarter and Faster in Plain Language
The Benefits of Plain Language
Plain English, Plain Writing, and Plain Language are interchangeable terms that describe what English teachers want their students to do: write clearly and concisely. While these terms are fairly new, clear and concise writing has been the goal of English teachers for centuries. The following article, “The Myth of Plain Language,” by Hoa Loranger, explains what Plain Language is—and what it isn’t—and lists the benefits that writers and their readers receive.
“A common misguided objection I hear about plain language is that it dumbs down content and thus insults intelligent readers. This complaint is often loudest among authors who write for skilled professionals and academics.
Some writers use an academic tone out of habit or try to impress readers with complex sentences and showy vocabulary. The misconceived notion that long sentences and big words make you sound smarter (or more professional) results in great sacrifices to readability and credibility.
All writers, including producers of technical and academic content, owe it to readers to communicate information simply, and clearly. Remember that the primary goal of communication is to convey information. Here are some advantages of clear, straightforward writing:
- It communicates information succinctly and efficiently so that readers understand the message quickly, without having to decipher complicated sentences or vague jargon.
- It benefits everybody, from expert readers to international users and people who use English as a second language (ESL). If your content is meant to appeal to an international audience, plain language is even more crucial.
- It is easily searchable and will often gain you a better SEO ranking. The words that you use in your copy should reflect the words people enter in search engines.
- It is welcome by readers; in fact, studies show that it makes the writer look smarter. (If people understand more of what you’re saying, they will likely feel that you make sense.)
Good communication has strong business value. Organizations with clear writing styles are perceived to possess greater transparency and credibility than companies that don’t. Plain language removes barriers between you and your readers. It sets your organization apart from the competition, resulting in increased conversions and loyalty.
Forget conventions of technical writing. Push aside reports and articles that are traditionally written. They tend to be verbose and difficult to understand. If you think clearly, you will express yourself clearly. Your audience wants easy-to-read content that allows them to get the gist of the message efficiently. No one has ever complained that a text was too easy to understand.
Plain language is even more important online than in person. Online copy doesn’t convey inflections well, and fast-moving Web users will miss key messages if they’re not communicated succinctly and formatted to support scanning.”
- Venus is the only planet that rotates clockwise.
- Apples, not caffeine, are more efficient at waking you up in the morning.
- The first CD pressed in the U.S. was Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.”
- The 57 on the Heinz ketchup bottle represents the number of varieties of pickles the company once had.
- The only mammal that can fly is a: squirrel, possum, bat, lemur?
(Trivia Answer: bottom of page)
Word of the Month
garrulous | GER-uh-lus | adjective
• excessively talkative, especially on trivial matters
“Keith was exasperated by the garrulous keynote speaker at the tradeshow.”
Wacky & Wise Websites
Click here to see one of Norway’s latest architectural wonders: a roadside bathroom near the Arctic Circle whose largest wall is a one-way mirror.
Click here to see GIFs that have been circulated over a million times on the Internet.
American Express, Amgen, Cisco Systems, Department of the Navy, Fluor Corporation, General Electric, Motorola, The New York Public Library, Procter & Gamble, SEAL Team Six, State of Utah, Supreme Court of Virginia, United Way, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Food & Drug Administration
Writing Tips & More
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SATisfy Your Curiosity
SAT Exam practice question: Select the pair that best expresses a relationship similar to that expressed in the original pair.
- quote : passage
- condense : book
- duplicate : copy
- translate : language
- conclude : argument
(SAT Answer: Scroll to the bottom.)
The phrase head over heels means to be confused or muddled because of something, often love. The expression was originally the reverse: heels over head. This version dates to the 14th century poem Patience, which includes this reference to the Biblical story of Jonah and the whale:
“He [Jonah] passed in by the gills, through sticky slime… All heels over head tumbling about.”
In the late 1700s, people began reversing the phrase and saying head over heels as in this sentence from The Contemplative Man, written in 1771: “He gave such a violent involuntary kick in the Face, as drove him Head over Heels.”
Answer: To abbreviate a word is to make it shorter; similarly, to condense a book is to reduce its length.
Fun Facts Answer
A bat. Other mammals can glide through the air, but only the bat can fly.