The main goal in writing is to put your message across clearly and concisely. You want your readers to understand what you are telling them and what you want them to do with that information quickly and easily. Plain language is clear language – it is direct but not simplistic.
Plain language is great for business. Did you know that the Royal Mail in the UK saved £500,000 by using a plain language form instead of a complex one? And here in Australia the NRMA increased productivity and decreased staff training times when they created a plain language car insurance policy – way back in 1976! If only all insurance companies today followed their lead.
In order to help organisations understand and enjoy the benefits of using plain language, we have developed an engaging and practical course on the what, why and how of writing in plain language. The day-long workshop covers:
- why plain language is so important
- which audiences to use it for
- the environment you are writing in as far as literacy levels in Australia
- what your readers want and expect
- the key principals of writing in plain language
- how to make your communications clear, direct, concise and easily understood.
We've had some great feedback about the course from participants so far including Debby who told us: "I will use some of the examples to train my students in writing assignments in a plain way." And Lucy: "When writing, I will think more about using less 'flowery' language and think about the intended audience."
Plain language is a way of presenting information that helps your audience understand it the first time they read it and it makes good business sense. Using plain language helps you to communicate well with your clients and customers and give them what they want: information that is accessible and easy to understand.
Plain language is direct, everyday language and plain language is for everyone. It is not only important to people with low literacy or poor academic skills. In 2012, Christopher Trudeau, from the Thomas Cooley Law School at the Western Michigan University in the USA, undertook a study into the language of legal documents. He found that the more educated the person and the more specialist their knowledge, the more they preferred plain language. Often an excuse for not using plain language is that the audience will understand the language – but that doesn't mean they want to read it that way.
People with the highest literacy levels and expertise often have the most to read. They don’t have the time to trudge through pages and pages of complicated writing.
Trudeau's study also found that when given a choice, 80 per cent of people preferred sentences written in plain language. And the more complex the issue, the more people preferred the plain alternative.
If you or your organisation is interested in joining one of our plain language courses or having us run a course in your workplace please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (03) 9585 2299.
You can read more about Christopher Trudeau's study and find a link to the full report on the Gov.Uk website.