The Benefits of Plain Language

The language of sharing ideas
People who work in complex and highly technical fields sometimes mistake the intention of plain language. They worry that they are being asked to dumb down their message, that they won’t be allowed to capture the nuances of their field, and they might sound less knowledgeable.

But specialized language is perfectly okay as long as everyone understands what the words mean. As for nuances, they are often best illustrated by a variety of examples, and the examples will have greater impact if they are easy to follow.

Plain language empowers us to share all kinds of ideas, from simple to complex.

What is plain language?
According to the Plain Language Association International (PLAIN), “a communication is in plain language if its wording, structure, and design are so clear that the intended audience can easily find what they need, understand what they find, and use that information.”

Over the coming months, I’ll be sharing a series of blogs about writing in plain language. The principles and tips I will share work equally well for general and technical audiences.

Why should you care? 
Plain language is not about rules, but something more important. Plain language is about results. 

When you write in plain language, this is what happens:

  1. More people will hear your message. If we begin to read something and the message is unclear, we may stop reading or something worse may happen. If we’re obligated to read the content, we will continue but we will stop paying attention.

  2. More people will think about what you said. When you take the time to make your message plain, what you have to say engages the reader. Think back to the last time you read something that really hit home. You thought about what you read and you probably discussed it with others too.

  3. There’s a greater chance that people will take action. Maybe you want people to buy your products or services. Maybe you want to gather support from colleagues or a wider population. Even if your purpose seems less direct, such as helping others learn theories and skills, you’re ultimately hoping they will use what they have learned. Plain language gets things done.

  4. You’ll spend less time clarifying misunderstood information. The most common reason people give for not making their writing clearer is that they do not have time. But it’s a pay now or pay later system. If you don’t take the time to make your message clear before you share it, you will spend time later explaining yourself.

  5. Your relationships will be stronger. Plain language builds trust and credibility. When clients and customers receive communication that is clear, they feel good about interacting with you.

It comes back to the definition of plain language. Think about what it would mean to your personal life and career if everyone you interacted with could count on finding the information they need, understanding what they found, and being able to immediately put that information to use.

We all benefit from sharing ideas and experiences. Does your business or organization encourage employees to use plain language? What impact has this had?

© Debbie Bateman 2021. Image purchased from Adobe Stock.

2 thoughts on “The Benefits of Plain Language

  1. Pingback: Who Are Your Readers? - Clear Choice Writing Inc.

  2. Pingback: Structuring Information Plainly - Clear Choice Writing Inc.

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