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PLAIN ENGLISH WRITING : 9 Tips to Write Better Plain English Material : Complexity and Pomposity in Poor Writing : Drop the Officialese, and Write in Plain English : How to Recognize Passive Voice : How to Replace Jargon and Legalese : How to Start Writing in Plain English : View all articles

Why Plain English Writing is Necessary in Every Profession

Big businesses, lawyers, doctors, and all upper "C-level" executives may use inflated words when writing a memo within the organization, but as an everyday consumer and information seeker, the general public does not have the same level of education as these trade professionals. For that reason, the skill of writing in plain English is something that these upper level executives need to learn to remove the "fluff" from their writing, and just tell people in straightforward terms what they are trying to say.

Especially in situations where it is a serious matter, lawyers love using legal jargon and "legalese"—terms which only other lawyers and individuals in the legal field would understand. A basic one is: "to file suit," when instead they can say, "to sue someone."

The average person reading these legal documents have a third grade reading level, not a graduate (or higher degree in some cases) degree, as do these legal pros writing jargon and abstracts in their letters and documents. Writing in plain English is something the general publish prefers; they do not want to struggle with fancy grammar and big words.

You can always find extravagant, long-winded meaningless phrases in documents which could have been written in plain English with one or two words. Here are a few of the ones you see in documents:

• "in lieu of," can be said as "instead of";
• "as a means of," means the same thing "as to";
• "in connection with," can be stated as "with";
• "with exception of," can be said as "except for";
• and the list goes on and on.

Many trade professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, think using plain English is a way of "dumbing down" their education and expertise in an area. But, in fact, it is the other way around. If you keep using big words and legal jargon that your readers don't understand, it is going to make them feel as if you don't really care for their needs.

Here is a basic way to cut down your writing and write in plain English so anyone, no matter how educated they are, can understand it.

First, you want to review a document and remove any jargon or words which are specific to your field of work—your clients don't know what they mean, so replace them with simple words in the English dictionary.

Second, take away the "in lieu ofs," and just say "instead of." Although you may feel it "dumbs down" a document, this is what you must do for the average person, with a third grade reading level, to understand it.

Third, consider clarity, easy vocabulary, and short sentence structure. This makes for an easy to read document that all clients can understand.

So, cut out the big words, jargon, and mannerisms which are known in your profession, and just write in plain English for the everyday person. It is better to "dumb yourself down," a little, than to confuse and frustrate average readers because you can't communicate at their level.

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PLAIN ENGLISH WRITING : 9 Tips to Write Better Plain English Material : Complexity and Pomposity in Poor Writing : Drop the Officialese, and Write in Plain English : How to Recognize Passive Voice : How to Replace Jargon and Legalese : How to Start Writing in Plain English : View all articles