Choosing the right languageUse verbs not nouns / Avoid jargon / Use lists / Use the same words to refer to the same thing / Maintain the flow
Writing plain English means choosing the clearest way of giving your message to your reader. The words you choose and the way you organise them can both help you achieve this.
Remember the following guidelines as you write:
Use verbs not nounsMany nouns are formed from verbs, such as completion and provision. Using the verb is often more direct than using the noun. Cut out nouns where a single verb will do. For example:
Avoid jargonJargon is a special type of unfamiliar language that exists within most organisations. Used between people who understand it, jargon is a helpful shorthand. But it can be confusing for our customers, so we should try to avoid it altogether when dealing with the public. If you have to use jargon or a technical term, explain what it means if you think your reader may not understand.
Examples of terms we use that may not be clear to our readers are:
Further examples of words and phrases to avoid and words to use in their place can be found in Appendix E.
Use listsMany readers like to see information set out in a list, especially when the information is complex, because it helps them understand and respond to it in a methodical way. Bullet points or numbers may help to further clarify the list.
Use the same words to refer to the same thingThis may mean you have to repeat a word that you have just used. However, it makes your writing easier to understand.
Maintain the flowIt is perfectly acceptable to start sentences with conjunctions, eg but, however, so and because, or end sentences with prepositions, eg for, on, after and by, if they make the sentence clear. For example:
So that is why, about nine months ago, the Corporate Management Team set up a risk management board.
To avoid sunburn, put lots of sun lotion on.