Plain language (and why you should use it)
Plain language—also called plain writing or plain English—is communication your audience can understand the first time they read or hear it.
A 2020 study of 500 Americans found that using plain language in their communications increased reading speed and the ability to understand text. Message retention increased by 40% and message clarity increased by 33%.
To write clear, concise and scannable messages, consider the following plain writing tips in your communications.
- Avoid jargon and acronyms
- Use the present tense and active voice
- Define your audience—Use language they will feel comfortable with.
- Be concise—Omit any information your audience doesn’t need in order to understand.
- Organize the information—Start by stating your purpose and the bottom line, follow a logical order, and prioritize the most important information (including any necessary background toward the end).
- Make it readable—Keep things easy to scan by using accessible typography, descriptive headers and spaces between information.
- Use simple words and phrases
Examples of plain language swaps:
|carry out, start
|more, other, different
|Due to the fact
|in accordance with
|by, following, per, under
|in order that
|In the event of
|correct, exact, right