Join Judy Steiner-Williams for an in-depth discussion in this video Review basics of writing in plain English, part of Writing in Plain English.
- Before we look at the next steps, let's go back to the beginning. What is Plain English? We can summarize all our beginning definitions into this statement. Writing that is easy to read and understand with one reading because the language, structure, and presentation are clear. We've examined a variety of ways to achieve Plain English, user a readability index, read it aloud, avoid meaningless words, have a coherent structure, make it look reader friendly, and revise until it meets our Plain English definition.
So, what next? Has a topic or two in the course made you curious to learn more about it? Plain English in general or the readability indices. Maybe jargon or voice or more guidelines on how to revise. If so, learn more about those. The exercise file includes links for more about Plain English. One of those links has a before and after version of revisions the government has made. Johnson Space Center Manual National Park Service National Highway Traffic Safety Over-the-Counter Drug Labeling the IRS and Jury Instructions You could look at the before versions to identify the not-so-plain English components, revised portions, and then compare those with the revisions shown.
You might want to play with those generators for jargon, gobbledygook, or legalize babble. Maybe generate some of those meaningless phrases and use them, just for fun. Then wait to see if anyone questions you about what it means. Just be sure not to use them for any serious reason. I have a friend who interviews a lot of job candidates. He'll use one of those phrases in an interview question. If the candidate doesn't ask him to clarify or reword the question, he won't hire the person. Why, thematic communication.
He wants employees who will question and get all the facts before making decisions, not someone who pretends to understand something that's not understandable. Or find a Plain English checklist that works for you. Links to four possibilities are in the exercise file. Analyze someone else's writing, a business letter, an email, a newspaper article, or those instructions that came with your new tool or appliance, even that junk advertisement. Use one of the online readability indices. If it's above a 12, practice rewriting it.
You might also want to check out the Center for Plain Language. That web site has a good checklist along with other resources including some best and worst of the year examples from the ClearMark and WonderMark Awards. Next, analyze some of your own writing. Select approximately 100 word samples of things you've written. Check the readability index. Look at it, read it aloud. Circle all the there's and it's, all the camouflage verbs, all the multisyllable words, and practice rewriting.
Challenge yourself to see how few words you can use without changing the meaning. Use the activities in the exercise file to help you practice revising wordy, unclear sentences. Possible revisions are given for each, but don't look at them until you revise. Then, compare yours to the revision given. Yours may even be better. Another step is a personal one. If you're one of those people who tends to berate yourself if you don't understand something you've read, stop doing that. Chances are the writing is the problem, not you.
We can't be expected to understand poor writing. And finally, I refer to some of my other courses that delve more deeply into some of the guidelines mentioned in this course. So check out the playlist with this course for additional writing guidelines and tips. All types of writing, whether a speech, an email, or a report have the same Plain English requirements. And my final comment, here's 10 words, a readability level of eight, remember for a universal audience, eight is the norm. Thanks for taking this Plain English writing journey with me.
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.”