Join Judy Steiner-Williams for an in-depth discussion in this video Incorporate easy-to-read design features, part of Writing in Plain English.
- I've evaluated my words, the sentence structure, the voice, now my reader understands my message. It's in Plain English, right? Maybe, but maybe not. How inviting, how easy does it look to read? I feel safe in predicting that most of us, given a choice, would read the second version of these two examples. Why? Because it looks and is easier to read. Here's the paragraph that we examined in the read-a-loud lesson.
Let's continue analyzing how it can be improved. Here's Version Two. Are you interested in additional money and volunteers to support for Cars for Hope car share program? Your goals for Cars for Hope are worthwhile, and we hope to partner with you to expand the program. Answers to the following questions will help us determine how to provide the strongest support for Cars for Hope. One. What aspects of your program need the most funding? Two. How much funding would be necessary to totally fund those programs? Three.
What volunteer opportunities will be available this summer? Four. What specific responsibilities would the volunteers have? And five. What is the minimum volunteer time commitment? Your response by February 28 to this email or to this phone number, would help us make plans to begin partnering with you by June. Also, please include other information to help us move forward with this potential partnership. We look forward to the possibility of working with Cars for Hope. Let's contrast the hard to read Version One with Version Two that has easy to read design features.
Version One has one, 20 line paragraph. The average should be about six to eight lines in letters, memos, and emails. So the first ding against its not being Plain English is it's length. Version Two has three short paragraphs and a numbered list. It looks reader friendly. Next, Version One is wordy and repetitive. The word volunteer, or volunteers, is used six times, we, eight times, and some version of "fun" three times.
Version Two, volunteer, four times, we, two times. Version One is also wordy with needless words, help us ascertain the possibility of providing these funds by answering the following questions. Version Two shortens that to: Answers to the following questions will help us determine how to provide the strongest support for Cars for Hope. Version One, how many questions are being asked? Actually, none, since the intended questions are all hints. I would like to know, it would be nice if you would tell me, but the reader has to search even for those intended questions.
In Version Two, the reader knows immediately that five questions are being asked and each starts in question form, what and how. Version One has about 200 words. Version Two has about 150 words. Not only does Version Two look easier to read, it has fewer words to read. The readability level of Version One is 13.1 and 10.1 for Version Two. However, Version Two's improvement is much more than just it's readability index. Even something as simple as this message can improve its design features.
Look at these two versions. Here are two upcoming events to get on your calendar. All of our Intramural sports teams are invited to attend the award banquet on March 19. The yearly company conference will be in Portland this year from June 12, 16. Or, Here are two upcoming events to get on your calendar. One, March 19, Intramural Sports Teams Award Banquet and two, June the 12th through the 16th, Yearly Company Conference in Portland. So what are the easy to read design features that are necessary for Plain English? Readable length sentences and paragraphs, concise wording, and numbered or bulleted lists.
Internal headings so the reader doesn't have to search for the questions, the key points, or the intended message. Did I predict correctly? You chose Version Two as being the one you would read first. Remember that vision of versions one and two as you incorporate the easy to read features into your Plain English writing.
If you can write in plain English, you can save time, save money, and save face in communications. Start watching to learn how to make your writing more "plain": stronger, clearer, and more concise.
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- Explain how to make your writing clear, concise, and straightforward.
- Recognize the average reading level for most audiences.
- Identify commonly overused words.
- Recognize how strong verbs can help avoid passive writing.
- Explore the benefits of deleting extra words.
- Define “weasel words.”