Plain English: What It Is And Why It’s Important

By Lauren Carter

I hope you’re having a beautiful week so far. Today I want to introduce you to the concept of plain English.

What exactly is plain English?

Using plain English is something everyone should try to do. But what exactly does using plain English mean?

Simply put, it’s a way of writing and speaking English that’s easy for everyone to understand. When you use plain English, someone who isn’t familiar with that topic or specialisation will be able to understand it regardless of their age, ability, or language background.

Here are 5 simple tips you can start using right now to make your writing more accessible:

  • Use common, short words as much as possible
  • Use short sentences
  • Write the way you would speak
  • Get to the point and eliminate unnecessary words
  • Use headings, bullet points, and white space to break up your text

Why is plain English important?

Using plain English is super important for three main reasons.

  • It makes information accessible to everyone
  • It saves times
  • It makes everyone happier

Have you ever read a text and struggled to understand what it was actually trying to say? This could have been a privacy notice, instructions, or even an email. You most likely had to re-read it several times to understand it, or perhaps you just skipped over it completely because you couldn’t be bothered trying to decipher its meaning after the fifth read-through.

Plain English gets rid of this problem. Anyone can understand anything you say or write when you use plain English.

When your audience understands your messaging the first time they read or hear it, then they’re less likely to call or email you or your staff to clarify. Using plain English can actually save you and your clients loads of time!

Lastly, when you actually understand something you read or hear, you feel good about it (especially if you’re a non-native English speaker or a native speaker with low English literacy). You feel calm because you’re sure you’ve understood the information. Writing in plain English helps you and your clients feel more calm, relaxed, and centred.

Plain English is pretty cool, hey?

This week’s challenge

To get you started in your plain English journey, my challenge for you this week is to really think about the way you communicate and how it can impact your text’s accessibility.

When writing an email or speaking to someone this week, pause for a moment and ask yourself “is there a simpler way to communicate this?”.

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