There are 2 steps to making information easy to understand
What is plain English? Plain English is a message, written with the reader in mind that is clear and concise.
There are five rules to follow regarding the use of plain English:
Use everyday words.
Use words that you use in everyday talk
For example, rather than saying. ‘in the event of’ you can use ‘if’ and instead of ‘consequently’ you could use ‘so’
Look at the A to Z of alternative words at the Plain English Campaign website
Using ‘I’, ‘we’ and ‘you’ make information seem easier to understand and friendlier.
So instead of 'applicants must send us' use 'you must send us'
Repeating words and phrases helps people understand and retain the information.
If you need to use jargon, then explain what it stands for.
e.g.‘The Care Programme Approach or CPA for short’
e.g.‘As far as I’m concerned’, ‘I am of the opinion that’, ‘really’
e.g.‘At the end of the day’, ‘Keep your eye on the ball’, ‘Skating on thin ice’
A nominalisation is an abstract noun that is formed from a verb.
e.g.Completion (to complete), Introduction (to introduce) or we had a discussion about we discussed …
Be clear! Words like ‘few’, ‘quite’, ‘nearly’ and ‘some’ are difficult to define. Some people find numbers and time difficult, e.g. 24 hour clock or ‘4 in the afternoon’
Ed hit Peter’ = active
Peter was hit by Ed’ = passive
e.g. ‘Drinks can be bought in the bar‘ becomes ‘You can buy drinks in the bar’
Negatives can be hard to understand.
e.g. ‘Do not give skimmed milk to babies under 6 months becomes 'You can give skimmed milk to babies over 6 months old’
e.g. ‘Switch on the kettle after filling it with water’ becomes 'Fill the kettle with water. Then switch it on’
Information is easier to understand when it is presented in a series of chunks. Each chunk should focus on one main idea.
Use white space on the page to break up written information.
Use headings that describe what you want your readers to be able to do or know when they have read that section of information.
e.g. ‘Causes of depression’ ‘Understanding depression’
Lists are a good way to split up information
Try to write each new point as a complete sentence
Make you information relevant to your audience by using quotes or stories that are relevant to them
Make sure your information doesn’t just reflect the experiences of white, heterosexual people.
People will ignore information if it doesn’t reflect their lives.
Try and include a phone number or e-mail address where people can get help or information but remember that this information needs updating.