When it comes to English writing, we tend to try to use “fancy”, complicated words to make our writing sound meaningful. In fact, complex writing isn’t as effective as we might think, especially for those who aren’t native speakers. Because it takes a lot of time and sometimes it confuses the audience and distracts them from your message. If you want to quickly deliver your idea, you need to simplify your writing by using Plain English. You might be wondering what Plain English is. Well, Plain English is a way of writing or presenting information so that the audience can understand it quickly and easily. In this post, I’m going to share with you some useful tips on how to write in Plain English. Now, let’s get started!
First of all, I think it would be helpful to list some problems that are common in English writing.
– Long sentences
– Passive voice
– Weak verbs
– Superfluous words
– Abstract words
– Unnecessary details
– Unreadable design and layout
TIPS TO FIX THESE PROBLEMS
Here are some tips you need to use to improve your writing:
1. Keep your sentences/ paragraph short
- Best average sentence length is 15-20 words. However, it doesn’t mean that every sentence should be the same length. Vary your sentence length because too many short sentences will make the reading dull.
- Keep the paragraph short and easy to scan.
2. Use active voice with strong verbs
- Active voice sentences clearly identify the action and who is performing that action. The active voice is more to the point and lively. Readers understand sentences in the active voice more quickly and easily because it follows how we think and process information. Besides, the passive voice will make a sentence become longer.
- Here are examples:
Lee buys a book –> The active voice
A book is bought by Lee –> The passive voice
3. Write in the positive
- Negative language can be unclear and the meaning can be misinterpreted.
- It is advisable to use negative phrases for warnings: “Do not use this equipment at home”.
4. Good uses of passives
Only use the passive voice when you have a very good reason for doing so. For example, when you don’t know who or what the performer of the action is.
5. Make it personal
- Put your audience first and write as if you are explaining the facts in person.
- The warmer the tone, the more engaged your audience will be.
- Use “we” and “you” as they allow you to speak directly to your audience, creating an appealing tone that will keep your audience reading. In addition, they will keep your sentences short!
6. Use words the audience are likely to know
- Avoid using technical jargon without explanations unless you know your audience will understand it.
- Use simple everyday English. Here is our list of plain English alternatives to simplify your writing.
7. Design/ layout
- Make sure you use bullet or number lists, and tables or diagrams to split information up whenever possible.
- Use lots of white space.
- Use left justified, ragged right text: Left aligned (ragged right) makes for easier reading and the spacing between words is the same throughout the document.
So, as you can see, writing in plain English is a skill, which means you have to learn and practice a lot to master it. I know I’m not perfect at writing simple content but I’m trying my best. I hope you will, too. There are also many other tips on plain English writing that you should follow to make your writing more concise and comprehensible. To know more about Plain English, I highly recommend that you study plain English guides produced by Plain English campaign. Below are also some tools/website that you may find useful:
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