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Plain and simple writing

What is plain English?

Plain English doesn’t mean dumbing down your 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 is it better to write plainly, using everyday English?

Writing plainly works. It’s written with the reader in mind, using simple 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: it saves time and money, it improves client satisfaction, and it improves trust in your company. 

How does using plain English save time and money?

Research has shown that writing in plain English saves companies money. If information is written clearly and in an easy-to-understand style: 

  • You’ll receive fewer queries and complaints from clients
  • Clients will make fewer errors when following instructions (e.g. when filling in forms)
  • There’s less chance of being misunderstood
  • You’ll need less time and effort to train staff, as a result

Documents written in plain English are quicker and easier to read. If your clients have to read a document more than once to understand what it means, you’re wasting their time – and probably annoying them too.

Plain English increases confidence in your company

Research shows that people prefer communication that is clear and easily understood. Giving clients information that’s difficult to understand will undermine their confidence in you and your products, especially if they’re expected to follow an instruction or sign a document.

Documents that are written in plain language allow clients 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, and is frustrating to read.

Plain English is law!

South Africa’s 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. If we can help you communicate your message better, please drop us a mail at