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Plain English writing tips

These tips come from the specialists who run our Business Writing workshop.
Come on our Business Writing workshop to learn more
 

 

Consider structure, language, and layout

Think about your reader and your purpose for writing. Then structure the document by:
  • deciding on your main messages
  • choosing a structure that is clear and logical to the reader
  • using informative headings that clearly signpost the main messages
  • writing paragraphs that focus on one main theme.

Think about the language you'll use.
  • Choose precise, familiar words (eliminate jargon and explain technical terms where necessary).
  • Write mostly short, straightforward sentences with one main idea (average around 15-20 words).
  • Use an appropriate tone.

Finally, use a layout that helps the reader absorb the messages quickly and accurately.
 

Use verbs to bring your writing alive

By changing nouns and noun phrases to verbs, you make your writing shorter and more reader-friendly.

 

Hint: watch out for words ending in '-ion', '-ment', '-tion', '-ance', '-ence', '-ancy', '-ency', ‘ism’, and '-ity'.

Examples

make provision for  =  provide

give consideration to  =  consider

make an application to  =  apply

 

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Edit wordy phrases

Give every word you use a job to do. Don’t use words that aren’t essential to your meaning. Unnecessary words clutter your sentences and crowd out your meaning.

Examples

in order to = to

in respect of = about

for the purpose of = to

am not in a position to = can’t 

on two separate occasions = twice

pertaining to = about

in light of the fact that = because

in the course of = during

 

Vary sentence length

Aim for an average sentence length of 15–20 words. Short, clear sentences are a hallmark of plain English.

 

But vary the length of your sentences, or your writing will become boring.

 

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