Plain Language checklist

It’s been awhile since I’ve found time and inspiration to whip up a blog-post, but I came across this free website the other day and just had to share:

What makes this topic so interesting?

Well, in my opinion, if “knowledge is power” then communication is the fuel of progress and development. The more effective the communication, the more influential it can be in shaping things that matter. Plain Language is a key tool for effective communication.

What is “Plain Language”?

Otherwise known as “Plain English” (at least in English-speaking parts of the world), Plain Language is communication your audience can understand easily. It is clear, concise and well-organised.

What’s good about the Plain Language website?

The Plain Language website launched as a voluntary initiative in 1994. A free resource for users, the site is maintained by the Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN), a group of US federal employees from different agencies and specialties who support the use of clear communication in government writing.

My favourite part of the website is the Checklist for Plain Language, a well-organised set of simple tips and principles that can be adopted into everyday writing practice. Some examples:

Avoid hidden verbs – Government writing is full of hidden verbs. They make our writing weak and longer than necessary. Say “we manage the program” and “we analyze data” not “we are responsible for management of the program” or “we conduct an analysis of the data.”

Be concise – Unnecessary words waste your audience’s time. Great writing is like a conversation. Omit information that the audience doesn’t need to know.

Add useful headings – There are three types of headings: question headings, statement headings and topic headings. Question headings are useful if you know what questions your audience will ask. Statement headings are the next best choice because they are still very specific. Topic headings (often a single word) are the most formal, and many times management is more comfortable with them, but sometimes they can be overly vague and helpful.

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