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Plain English Writing


Plain English Writing

Plain English writing is the art of tailoring your text to your audience. In other words, a text your audience can understand the first time they read it. To accomplish that your audience has to be able to read your text without the use of any aids, such as a dictionary.

Resolve issues with your text by studying how to assess your reader accurately, and plan for their needs. Practice techniques for simple language writing. Understand how page design affects comprehension, and learn how to evaluate the readability of your text.

Organizing

First off, organizing your text, your text has to have a logical order with the audience in mind.

Break Up Your Content

Break up your content by using subheadings. Not only do they look good within your text, but also give a tidy appearance.

Line Breaks

Break The Line. Line breaks are your friend; they help you and the reader to easily decode text by having white space in between lines.

Keep Them Short

Keep your sentences short, as a matter of fact, around twenty words.

The List

The Bullet List. Yes, use it to make multiple points, as a bonus, bullet lists stand out from your page. They are attractive to the eye so to speak.

You

Always use the first person-“you”- as well as all the other pronouns that are available.

Keeping It Active

Stick with -“active voice”-, always.

Common Words

Only use official words, nothing technical, just plain English as you hear it every day.

Captions For Your Images

Image Caption. Of course, use it. Readers always scan images.  And if you use a caption with your image, even better, intrigue your reader to carry on reading.

Plain English Writing

This Is A Caption. Make it so that it is about two lines long


Linking

Links Within Text. Use them to link to your relevant content on your page. You may refer to an external page provided it has any relevance to your text. The benefit may be a back link, but of course, that is not a guarantee.

Highlights

Use highlights where appropriate within your text to emphasize a particular portion of your writings. For instance, use italics to have part of your text stand out.

Numbers

We all love numbers. Numbers let us see in detail how much of a discount we can expect. Use numbers where appropriate within your text. Once again, by using numbers, you are using a tool that elevates one portion of your text.  By doing so, you lead the reader’s eyes to that portion.

Edit

Review your content. Reviewing is an important part. Scan over your text, does it make sense? Is it easy to read? Will the reader get the idea?

Get rid of all filler words. Don’t use -“really”-, -“very”-, and such. Those words only weaken your otherwise profound text. Ice-Cream is very good. No, it really is good. Ice-cream is good, and that’s it. End of the sentence. Ice-Cream is good. It does say it all, no need for extra words.

Let me explain:

Ice-Cream is very good. Here we have a complete sentence.
No, it really is good. That is also a complete sentence.

-Ice-Cream is good. Here we have a complete, but a better sentence.
No, it is good. That is also a complete, but a better sentence.

There is no need to emphasize a sentence with a pointless intensifier/qualifier.

Neither very, nor really does make ice-cream good. Ice-cream is good without really and very. Point taken?
Well then, moving on.

Use Plain English Writing For Your Blog. Your audience will thank you by coming back for more. Check out my blog post on that topic.

Prolixity/Wordiness

Wordiness occurs when you use words, be it complex or abstract to an extent which would describe -way too many.  You have an excellent chance to irritate the reader.  Good practice to avoid wordiness would be as follows.

No Filler Words

Filler Words. Remember the ice-cream example? There you have a perfect example of a filler word. It’s pointless, no need for it, don’t do it.

Redundancy

No need for it. It is as simple as that. Redundancy occurs when you use some words within one sentence that essentially have the same meaning. For instance:

Jon is a bright, clever, and intelligent person. No, please. There you have three words which in essence have the same meaning; Jon is not stupid.

Qualifiers

As with the ice-cream example, there is no need for those words. All they do is make the sentence and all of your writing awkward. Instead, use the next best thing. Let’s use the ice-cream example, instead of Ice-cream is very good; we will simply use Ice-cream is excellent.

Do you notice the difference? Excellent!

Length

Keep your sentences short. Doing so will have the reader absorb your text easily. Try to max-out your sentence at twenty words.

Jargon

There is not much I can say about jargon other than don’t use it in your text. The reason being, exclusivity! You are limiting your audience to readers that understand the jargon or that you are using in your text.

Design

The design of your text plays a significant part of how your audience perceives your writings.
Use proper fonts. Arial at size 12 is always an excellent choice.
Line spacing. Believe it or not, improper use of line spacing is a great way of getting rid of your audience. It makes text hard to read.

One line high for line spacing is perfect.

Stick with dark text on a light background. Let’s say a dark gray on a white background, perfect.
Use plenty of pictures. People love scanning pictures; it also gives a nice touch to your text.
Check your spelling; I can’t say it often enough. Check it.

And that’s all there is to Plain English Writing.

Do you have ay thoughts on this blog post? I’m happy to read about it in the comments box.

-Danyel


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Plain English Writing

2 Comments to “Plain English Writing”

  1. […] Think about a reasonable goal regarding words. How many words would you be able to write within the time available reasonably? Do not go overboard, be very realistic with your goal. The quiet area of your home should be your refuge; it should make you feel comfortable while you are writing. I can only speak for myself, and the way I deal with that is simple. A comfortable high back chair, a cup of hot chocolate and an Oboe Concerto. That does the trick for me. It’s very easy to write when I set it up in that way. Writing has to happen; naturally, you can not force it. If you try to force it, it won’t be what you had in mind before you started. Your text will be like a foreign language to you, and as a result, you are going to be unhappy with the outcome. Time wise I am writing around two hours before I go to bed. The reason for that is my state of mind. My day is over, dinner, as well as the dishes, are done. I probably spend time watching a relaxing movie or reading something that is not heavy. My mind is relaxed, and that is the best time to write, no pressure. That is why it is important to prepare the writing topic the day before. All you have left then is real writing time, without the need to rush. How many words to write? To be honest, it’s not important, as long as you write. Some days I write a lousy 300 words, other days I write seven times as many. You too will experience the uneven volume in the words you write. It has to do with the topic you selected. Once you start writing, you will experience that yesterday’s topic ended up at a thousand words. Today’s writing, you got only 300 words done. That’s nothing to worry about, and you shouldn’t. Some things are easier to write about than others. It is an experience every writer is going through. Read my blog post on Plain English Writing […]

  2. […] You may also like, Plain English Writing […]

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