What is plain language?
Plain language or plain English is understood by a reader the first time they read it, allowing writing for a more specific audience. The three main goals of plain language are that the reader will find what they need, understand that information quickly, and then use that information to meet their needs. Clear and concise writing is however a little bit more than short sentences, simple words and logical organization as you will see down below.
Why use plain language?
Studies have shown that the majority of readers online are more inclined to scan a new page first rather than read it word for word. Increasing your content’s appeal is pivotal to increasing your web site’s readability and catching the eye of these “scanners”. After all, what’s the point of attracting traffic to your web site if they don’t read what it says? Plain language encourages effortless reading, and when something is easy to read and understand, people will continue reading it. Show visitors your webpage is worth sticking around by employing some of the following tips.
Plain language tips and techniques
• Use the word “you”.
• Use about half the words typically seen in conventional writing.
• Use bulleted lists and highlight important keywords by bolding or colouring them.
• Stick to one topic per paragraph.
• Write understandable subheadings. An example of this is the popular headline “Kids Make Nutritious Snacks”.
• Write your articles in the inverted pyramid style: Try to get as much of the important information in the beginning of the text, leaving the least important aspects at the end, or “tip” of the inverted pyramid. If readers don’t have the patience to read an entire paragraph, they will come away having absorbed the most important things you had to say.
• Using the active voice. The active voice is your more common, comfortable ordering of words, for example: “cats eat fish”, as opposed to “fish are eaten by cats”. The object (fish) receives the action of the verb (eat).
Plain language in everyday life
Plain language allows for much easier communication and understanding by users in a much shorter time. Many government and business professionals are beginning to realize the benefits of plain language and are changing their content to gear it more towards average readers and those whose first language may not be English. The days of impossible to muddle through technical jargon are coming to an end as complex writing can sometimes only create more questions and lead to misunderstandings.