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How to Write Well

You don’t need to be Shakespeare to write well. The secret to good writing is to write in plain language.

What is plain language

Plain language is writing from your audience’s point of view. When you create content (print or online) in plain language, your audience can quickly and easily:

  • Find what they need
  • Understand what they find the first time they read it
  • Do the right thing based on their understanding

Plain language depends on the audience. What is plain language to one audience may not be plain language to another. For example, an astrophysicist will easily understand astrophysics written in plain language; however, a person without an astrophysics background may not.

What plain language is not

Plain language is not a religion. Some people  get too fanatical and believe that all technical terms and long words should be eliminated. Doing this blindly can introduce errors and change the meaning of your content, which can ultimately turn your audience off.

Plain language is not only short words and short sentences. While these two guidelines play a very important role in plain language, you should also organize the content in a way that makes sense for your audience.

Plain language is not dumbing down the text. The goal of plain language is not to insult people’s intelligence. Rather, the goal is to express ideas clearly and accurately.

Why do we need plain language

Life is getting busier and more frantic everyday. Your audience doesn’t want to waste time “decoding” the meaning of difficult, wordy content. Plain language saves time and frustration because your audience can understand your content more quickly.

Plain language saves money on training and support because your audience won’t ask as many questions or make as many mistakes. They can follow your procedures more easily, complete forms more accurately and comply more accurately with your policies and regulations.

Plain language is good customer service. It keeps customers coming back to not only your content but also to your company.

Plain language can even save lives. How many times have you heard about medical mistakes because someone misread or misunderstood something?

While plain language can be a lot of work in the beginning, it pays huge benefits in the end.

How do we write in plain language

This is the million dollar question. Here are some guidelines to get you started:

#1: Know your audience.

#2: Write in the active voice, whenever possible. The active voice explains “who is doing what”.

#3: Keep your sentences short and simple.

#4: Address the audience as “you” to keep them engaged.

#5: Make the content visually appealing.

#6: Organize the content.

#7: Omit needless words or repetition.

#8: Use graphics, tables and charts to explain complex information.

#9: Don’t force your reader to figure out the meaning. Avoid ambiguous wording such as “and/or”, multiple negatives and unnecessary qualifiers.

#10: Test your content with your audience. For example, if you’re writing instructions on how to set up a new printer, have your audience follow your instructions and tell you if something is missing.

Got any ideas on plain language? Let me know in your comments.

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6 Responses to “How to Write Well”

  1. Definitely, what a splendid website and enlightening posts, I surely will bookmark your website.Best Regards!

  2. You are a very capable individual!

  3. admin says:

    Thank you all for your comments! It’s great to hear from you!

  4. Excellent article, plenty of good quality info. I am going to point out to my friend and ask them the things they think.

  5. Great post! Maybe you could do a follow up on this topic?

  6. bike sales says:

    Thank for very good work!