Sunday, January 23, 2011

plainly speaking

wirework for today
would much rather be doing this

My latest homework has been pure torture.
Precis I don't mind.
Editing and reducing the word count - no problem.
But plain english? Ugh (two paragraphs, in the style of .... wish me luck).


Plain English, also known as Plain Language,  is the art of writing effectively without unnecessary clutter.  

The Plain Language movement started with 14th Century authors, such as Chaucer,  writing in everyday english rather than french (used in the royal court) or church latin. Writing in everyday language and speech patterns meant more people could understand. A century later the printing press was invented and books were available to more people. Coupled with Plain Language, reading became popular in the general population. Information was more readily available. By the mid 20th century the modern Plain English movement began. In 1946, English author, George Orwell, criticised the misuse of language by politicians. He stated that political writing existed "to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." Orwell championed Plain English instead of using "meaningless words and hackneyed phrases".  The British Plain English movement began in 1979 with a dramatic shredding of hundreds of indecipherable official forms. It continued with development of the Crystal Mark seal of approval for document clarity. In 1978, the United States government decided all federal regulations should be written in Plain English (Executive Order from President Carter). In Canada, a Plain Language Society of Vancouver was founded in the 1980's.  Global businesses and governments have worked hard to make information clearly understandable to their readers since these early days.   

Plain language is best suited for business writing and technical texts, where surplus words confuse the reader. Documents written in plain language are easy to read and understand at first sight.  
Avoid - 
  • unnecessary jargon, slang, and clich├ęs 
  • lengthy and complex sentences  
  • abbreviations, acronyms, and foreign words 
Simplicity and brevity are essential.   
Use simple words, short sentence structure, and a conversational tone to engage instead of confuse the reader. Strong, active verbs get the message across and cut down sentence length. Keep gender neutral - don't alienate your audience. Focus your writing by researching your audience. Ease the reading process as much as possible.  

Remove superfluous verbiage. 

In a nutshell, cut the crap.

PS: There is a website (Drivel Defence) which you can plug your text into and check for Plain English use. It's offered by the Plain English Society. According to their analysis, my paragraphs above fare quite well.
ebb and flo by pomo mama design click to shop pomo mama design online!