What springs to mind when you hear the term ‘plain English’? Do you think ‘straightforward’, ‘basic’ or ‘old-fashioned’?
In the world of PR and marketing it is crucial that the audience, including journalists, get what we write about on behalf of our clients. Lately there has been a lot of criticism about PR writing styles and I would have to agree with most arguments. Journalists don’t care for all the mumbo jumbo technical words; they want to read simple, understandable and interesting content that relates to their readers.
In the corporate world we seem to have forgotten these basic plain English principles. It seems we have forgotten how to write for the general public.
Why has this slipped our minds? Is it because we are going above and beyond to satisfy our clients? I am sure that sometimes the client would also appreciate a break from the overbearing use of complex words.
So I would like to revisit why writing in plain English is mandatory.
Going back to the basics of writing makes professional documents more reader-friendly because:
• it improves professional communication, workplace productivity and access to services and information;
• the less complex and awkwardly-phrased a document is, the easier it is to persuade readers that your ideas are valuable. Simple language makes it clear and suitable for any intended audience;
• writing that is too complex can detract from the importance of the overall information being communicated. Plain English delivers a clear message.
Long ago, I developed a checklist for my team so they wouldn’t bring me anything to proof that was a waste of my time (excuse the bluntness). I encourage them to ask themselves the following questions:
• do you find it hard to read the document? Why do you think that is?
• is it interesting enough?
• does it make sense?
• do you feel like you need to visit dictionary.com every second sentence to understand what’s being said?
• is it news?
• who are the target journalists and have you researched how they write?
Writing in plain English will help with business productivity, as it will allow for more personal client and business relationships and communication.
Keeping your writing straightforward keeps clients, journalists and fellow employees interested and productive. It’s that simple.