What is plain English?
Almost anything can be written in plain English-from leaflets to legal documents. It does not have to writing that is oversimplified or patronising.
Most insurance companies are now producing policies which are written in plain English. Most forward looking senior managers are also writing in plain English.
The main advantages of plain English are that it is faster to write; it is faster to read and it is an easier way of getting your message across.
So, how do we write plain English? Firstly, keep your sentences short. They should be an average length of 15 to 20 words.
Secondly, use active verbs rather than passive verbs. For example, the following sentence is a passive verb: “The matter will be considered by us shortly” whereas “We will consider this matter shortly” is an active verb. Passive verbs can be confusing. They can make the writing more long-winded and they make writing less lively.
The third tip is to use the words ‘you’ and ‘we’ in your writing. So, for example instead of saying “applicants must send us …” you would write “you must send us….”. Using ‘you’ and ‘we’ makes the letter or document friendlier and more personal. Imagine that you are talking to your reader across a table.
The last tip is to avoid jargon when you write. Jargon is a type of language which is only understood by a particular group of people. Try to use everyday English as much as possible. Make sure your writing is clear, helpful and polite.