How Plain English Can Save Your Organization Time and Money
Writing is considered a “soft skill” whose benefits are impossible to calculate. The result: companies cannot determine how writing affects their bottom line. But not anymore. Research shows that clear and concise documents, those written in Plain English, produce real savings. And just as a refresher, here’s an excellent description of Plain English (aka Plain Writing and Plain Language) from Robert Eagleson, a former Associate Professor of Modern English Language at the University of Sydney, Australia:
“Plain English is clear, straightforward expression, using only as many words as are necessary. It is language that avoids obscurity, inflated vocabulary and convoluted sentence construction. It is not baby talk, nor is it a simplified version of the English language.”
The Benefits of Plain English in Dollars and Cents
The following are just a few examples of how learning to write Plain English can help your organization save time and money.
- The US Navy [with 323,800 active personnel] estimated Plain English could save it between $250–$300 million every year.
- General Electric saved $275,000 by redrafting manuals into Plain English.
- The US Department of Veterans Affairs saved $40,000 redrafting one standard letter into Plain English.
- Customers in three surveys of standard letters from banks unanimously preferred the Plain English versions.
- British Telecom cut customer queries by 25 percent by using Plain English.
- The Royal Mail saved £500,000 in nine months by redesigning one form in Plain English.
- UK businesses lose £6 billion a year because of badly written letters.
- A UK Government Plain English initiative saved £9 million in printing costs.
- A bank had a sales letter rewritten by a professional, Plain English editor. The clearer redraft brought in an extra $11 million in new business.
- One council in the United Kingdom sent 1.3 million pages of committee reports to councilors in one year. If the councilors worked 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, reading a page every minute, it would take them 3.7 years to read all of the documents.
Writing may be a soft skill, but Plain English can save you hard cash.
- It’s impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.
- In the last 4,000 years, no new animals have been domesticated.
- The average American will spend six months waiting at red lights during their lifetime.
- The first known stapler was made in the 18th century in France for King Louis XV. Each staple was required to be inscribed with the insignia of the royal court.
- How long does it take to pour the perfect pint of Guinness: 60 seconds, 90.5 seconds, 119.5 seconds, 180 seconds?
Word of the Month
contretemps • \KAHN-tra-tanz\ • noun
1: an inopportune or embarrassing occurrence or situation; 2: dispute or argument
“Keith dismissed his disagreement with the CEO as a minor contretemps.”
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SATisfy Your Curiosity
SAT Exam practice question: Choose the word that best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole.
Because he felt intimidated in his new position, he was ____ divulging his frank opinions of company proposals.
- scurrilous about
- candid in
- chary of
- fervid about
- precipitate in
(SAT Answer: Scroll to the bottom.)
Reading the riot act means just what it says. Britain passed the Riot Act in 1715. It stated that when 12 or more people were engaged in a riot, any magistrate could command them to disperse by reading the Riot Act to the assembled mob. Anyone not obeying the command could be arrested for a felony. So reading the riot act quickly became a generic phrase meaning dire consequences could ensue if certain behavior doesn’t stop. The Riot Act was not repealed until 1973.
Dr. Kevin Ryan's business-writing book is available on Amazon.com and qualifies for free shipping.
Someone who is “intimidated” by his position would be “cautious about” or “chary of” expressing his honest opinion of company proposals.
Fun Facts Answer
The experts from the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin say the perfect pour requires six steps and takes just under two minutes, precisely 119.5 seconds.
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