What is plain English?
Plain English doesn’t mean dumbing down the language, or writing in a patronising or over-simplified way. It’s not an amateur’s way of writing.
Writing in plain English means using language that’s simple and a style that’s clear and easy to understand. It means steering away from jargon, complicated words and acronyms. Plain English writers try not to use six words when one will do. And that’s a lot harder to do than it seems!
Why should we write plainly, using everyday English?
Writing plainly works. It’s written with the reader in mind, using plain words and an open and clear writing style. It provides certainty and expresses your message clearly.
Communication that’s understood by your reader translates into benefits for your company. Communicating in plain language saves time and money, it improves customer satisfaction, and it raises the company’s standing in the marketplace. In South Africa, it’s also law that information has to be written in plain language.
Plain English saves time and money
Research has shown that writing in plain English saves companies money. Information written clearly and simply will result in these benefits for your business:
- Fewer queries and complaints from customers
- Fewer errors when customers have to follow instructions (e.g. when filling in forms)
- Less chance of being misunderstood
- Needing less time and effort to train staff
Documents written in plain English are quicker and easier to read, so you’re not wasting your customer’s time either. If your customers have to read a document more than once to understand what it means, you’re wasting their time.
Plain English increases confidence in your company
Unintelligible documents undermine customers’ confidence in you and your products. Customers want to understand the information you’re giving them, especially if they’re expected to follow an instruction or sign a document.
Documents that are written in plain language allow customers to make better-informed decisions quicker. They’ll also have more trust in you – information that’s written using complicated legalese may make them feel that you’re trying to hide something. It’s also frustrating to read.
Research shows that customers prefer communication that is clear and easily understood. Using plain language in your communication will give you the edge over your competitors.
Plain English is law!
The Consumer Protection Act states that all written communication has to be written plainly and clearly for the average man in the street. It also says that companies should assume that readers have little knowledge of their products and services. The style and layout of information shouldn’t be confusing, and any illustrations used should be relevant.
How we can help you communicate in plain language
Vanilla Flame can help you craft messages to your audience that are clear, simple and written in the right tone. We can help you with:
- Writing copy in plain language
- Editing and proofreading
- Developing a strategy and plan for introducing plain language into your company
- Doing a communication audit in your company
- Making sure your communication complies with the Consumer Protection Act
- Developing a style guide to make sure that all your communication is correct, consistent and has a uniform style
Vanilla Flame. English. Plain and simple. Give us a ring today on +27 21 689-7279 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.