Plain English

Last week, in Seminars for Making Media, we learnt about Plain English. In this blog post, I aim to regurgitate this information for your understanding.

Plain English ‘have been campaigning [since 1979] against gobbledygook, jargon and misleading public information. We have helped many government departments and other official organisations with their documents, reports and publications. We believe that everyone should have access to clear and concise information.’ (Plain English, 2016).

The point of plain English is to make writing accessible to the audience who will be reading it. Often students, like myself, over-complicate or over-formalise their writing in an attempt to sound more academic. Occasionally this is appropriate but its more likely to make your writing more confusing, especially if your words do not mean quite what you think they do.

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An example where plain English can simplify writing is below:

Before plain English: I communicated with Sarah through the children’s centre phone network.

After: I phoned Sarah. 

Both sentences say they same thing, but one is less wordy and much easier to understand.

The campaign is for short sentences and Anglo-Saxon words rather than Latin and is against jargon, confusion and clichés, euphemisms or management speak.

The process to simplify writing through plain English is as simple as four steps:

  1. Tautology (Remove self-evident truths)
  2. Delete repetition
  3. Simplify language
  4. Remove unnecessary words e.g. ‘Often there are…’ can be changed to ‘Often it…’.

Rachel Measures

Plain English Campaign (2016). About us. [online]. Last accessed 28 January. http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/about-us.html
I do not own the above image, it is from: http://www.englishblog.com/2008/12/met-office-and-george-bush-shamed-for-baffling-english.html#.VquumfmLTIU
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