How to write in plain English

As a business it’s important you’re communicating your message to as many people as possible.

Writing in PLAIN ENGLISH will ensure your message is reaching your customers.

Learn how to write in plain English today!

How to write in plain English

Did you know that almost half (46%) of Australia's population lack the literacy skills to deal with the demands of everyday life?

That's why, as a business owner, it's important to know how to communicate in a way that's easy to understand for as many people as possible. This style of writing is also called 'plain English' writing.

What is plain English writing?

Writing in plain English means:

  • using basic, commonly used words

  • choosing short words over long words where possible

  • avoiding industry jargon or slang terms

  • using short, concise sentences.

Benefits of writing in plain English

When you write in plain English, more people will be able to understand you, difficult ideas will be communicated more clearly and your writing will be more concise.

This should also help to reduce customer queries, and any confusion or misunderstandings about your products or services.

Plus, the more people can understand you, the more potential customers you will have for your business!

How do I write in plain English?

Writing in plain English might seem easy - however it's a skill that needs to be learnt like any other.

Here are some ideas you can use to make sure your writing is in plain English:

  • Use dot points to break up large chunks of text so the information is easier to read.

  • Try to use one word over two or three words, to express the same idea. For example, instead of saying 'on a daily basis', you can usually just write 'daily'.

  • Use 'active language'. This means using 'action words' or verbs to engage the reader (such as: read, check out, view, download). For example, ' Read business.gov.au's pricing guide for more information on pricing your business's products'.

  • Use 'active voice'. A sentence using 'active voice' is made up of an agent (who), a verb (is doing) and a target (what). An 'active voice sentence' is when the agent is in front of the verb, and the target is at the end, for example, 'Josh (who) opened (is doing) his plumbing business (what).'

  • Use personal pronouns for example, 'you' instead of 'the customer'.

  • Avoid using nominalised verbs (where verb is made into a noun). For example, use 'decided' instead of 'made a decision'.

  • Use commonly used, basic words instead of complex words.

Examples of plain English writing

Here are some plain English options you may use in your writing:

  • 'use' instead of 'utilise'

  • 'although' instead of 'despite that fact that'

  • 'with' instead of 'in conjunction with'

  • 'about' instead of 'in regards to'.

As a business owner, you should try to write in plain English wherever possible.

Examples can include: your website, marketing brochures, order forms - even the signs in your shop can be written in plain English!

Plain English vs complex language

Here are some before and after comparisons of complex language and plain English:

Complex language

'business.gov.au is an online business portal that consolidates government-business information from federal, state and territory and local governments, to help enterprise owners in their business operations.'

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