8 tips for clear & concise writing & why plain English matters

‘We need a more contemporary reimagining of our knowledge-based administrative flexibility.’

‘This is no time to bite the bullet with our global third-generation innovation.’

Do you understand the above? No, me neither. The texts were generated by the wonderful Plain English Campaign’s ‘gobbley gook machine’.

One of my favourite resources as a public relations professional is the Plain English Campaign website.  An ex-employee recommended the website to me over 15 years ago – most likely because I was a perpetrator of gobbley gookness. And, I have never looked back.

The Plain English Campaigners are big fans of clear and concise communications that have just the right tone and the all important reader in mind. They champion for straightforward language and have many supporters, one of which states that plain English “is much more effective than complicated jargon, pompous words, long sentences and endless paragraphs.”

You will find a wealth of fantastic resources on their website about the benefits of writing in plain English. They claim that the main advantages of writing in plain English are: a) it is faster to write; b) it is faster to read; and c) you get your message across more often, more easily and in a friendlier way.

You can find tips like the following on their website:

  1. Stop and think before you start writing. Make a note of the points you want to make in a logical order.
  2. Prefer short words. Long words will not impress your customers or help your writing style.
  3. Use everyday English whenever possible. Avoid jargon and legalistic words, and always explain any technical terms you have to use.  
  4. Keep your sentence length down to an average of 15 to 20 words. Try to stick to one main idea in a sentence.
  5. Use active verbs as much as possible. Say ‘we will do it’ rather than ‘it will be done by us’.
  6. Be concise.
  7. Imagine you are talking to your reader. Write sincerely, personally, in a style that is suitable and with the right tone of voice.
  8. And always check that your writing is clear, helpful, human and polite

You will find also find a wealth of fantastic resources including the following free guides:

Remember nobody, especially these days, has time to wade through copy that could be explained in just a few simple sentences.

If you are in the field of public relations, what are your thoughts on writing in plain English? Do you know of an equivalent guide in other languages such as Cantonese?


Thanks for reading. We have many other articles about public relations for you to read. Have you read our blog post on ’99+ reasons to do Public Relations’ yet?

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