Digest | Introduction | Reader And Purpose | Organizing Ideas | Appropriate Words | Simple Sentences | Effective Paragraphs | Design | Testing | More Information

Introducing Plain Language

Plain language is an approach to communication that begins with the needs of the reader. When you use plain language:

  • What you write is determined by your purpose for writing
  • How you write is determined by your audience's reasons for reading and their reading skills
Plain language matches the needs of the reader with your needs as a writer, resulting in effective and efficient communication. It is effective because the reader can understand the message. It is efficient because the reader can read and understand the message the first time.

Unless you write clearly and directly, with the needs of your audience in mind, your readers may be left with more questions than answers.

Difficult texts cause more:

  • misunderstandings
  • errors
  • complaints
  • enquiries
  • staff time lost to problem solving.
There are many misconceptions about plain language. Plain language is not a simplified style of writing. It involves more than replacing jargon and complex language with shorter sentences and familiar words. Plain language looks at the whole message - from the reader's point of view. Clear writing, effective organization and inviting presentation are all keys to creating readable, informative documents.
  • reaches people who can not read well or who don't have time to read well
  • helps all readers understand information
  • avoids misunderstandings and errors
  • saves time, because it gets the job done well the first time.
Q:So far, plain language writing seems to be more like a course in communications than a course in writing. The Communications Sector in our Department looks after communications. Why should I learn this?

A:We all need to be good communicators. Plain language writing is an approach to writing that helps us make our writing clear and simple and more accessible to readers. Plain language writing is not a few rules on grammar and sentence structure. It is an attitude or approach to writing that will help you write better, no matter what type of document you are writing.