According to Plain English Campaign (www.plainenglish.co.uk), plain English is "… something that the intended audience can read, understand and act upon the first time they read it. Plain English takes into account design and layout as well as language."
Plain English Campaign gives good guidelines for clear writing. Some examples follow:
- Keep your sentences short.
- Choose words appropriate for the reader.
- Prefer active verbs.
Plain English is suitable for complex technical information. For example, US SEC disclosure documents are complex, but they can be written in plain English. In A Plain English Handbook (www.sec.gov/pdf/handbook.pdf), the SEC writes, "We'll start by dispelling a common misconception about plain English writing. It does not mean deleting complex information to make the document easier to understand."
Plain English is good, but sometimes, plain English causes problems.
Plain English Campaign is a commercial organization that promotes clear English in the UK. It supplies The A to Z of alternative words (www.plainenglish.co.uk/files/alternative.pdf).
Plain Language Commission is a commercial organization that promotes clear English in the UK. It supplies Plain English Lexicon. A guide to whether your words will be understood (www.clearest.co.uk/pages/publications/plainenglishlexicon).
StyleWriter is an editing tool for plain English:
- UK supplier: Plain Language Commission (www.clearest.co.uk).
- International supplier: Editor Software (http://editorsoftware.com).
Plain Language Action & Information Network (www.plainlanguage.gov) promotes the use of plain language for all US government communications.
Plain Language Association International (PLAIN) (www.plainlanguagenetwork.org) is an international non-profit organization that promotes plain language.
Clarity (www.clarity-international.net) is an international organization that promotes clear legal language.