Communication minute: Plain English

Did the feline position itself horizontally on the floor covering, or did the cat just sit on the mat?

Plain English, or Plain Language, is a term used to describe writing that’s easy to understand. It’s the opposite of gobbledygook.

Communicating is about the sharing of meaning, so it makes sense to write clearly and in a way that’s easy to understand. Documents that are hard, or impossible, to comprehend fail the basic test of communication.

The principles of Plain English are: avoid unneeded words; write in short sentences; and use the shortest possible word that conveys your meaning.

It’s not about dumbing down your writing – it’s about making your point clearly.

It takes time and practice to write in Plain English. As Mark Twain once said: “I’d have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have time”.

For more information see:

The Plain English Campaign, UK.

Plain Language Australia.

My Post Graduate Writing Unit: Public Relations Writing and Tactics, Deakin University (available for online study).

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