How you write better

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Good writing guidelines are based on the principles of plain language. Learn how to write more enjoyable content by using plain language. 

The fact that less is often more when it comes to content creation was one of the many topics we explored with Heinz Wittenbrink in the course Editorial Processes & Project Management of my Content Strategy masters degree program.

The myth about plain language

Contrary to what some people think, writing in plain language does not mean dumbing down the content. Trying to impress readers with an academic tone, complex sentences and turgid terminology leads to the opposite. It negatively affects the readability and credibility of your content. (Loranger, 2017)

Plain English is clear, straightforward expression, using only as many words as are necessary. It is language that avoids obscurity, inflated vocabulary and convoluted sentence construction. It is not baby talk, nor is it a simplified version of the English language. Writers of plain English let their audience concentrate on the message instead of being distracted by complicated language. They make sure that their audience understands the message easily.

Professor Robert Eagleson, Australia
Illustration of making it more complicated than it needs to be. Source: Wu Yi / Unsplash

Do’s of plain language

Here are some easy ways to incorporate plain language into your work:

  • Use an active voice 
  • Use common words
  • Use first-person and informal address
  • Use only a single concept per sentence
  • Focus on your message and keep it brief
  • Write short sentences with simple structures

Don’ts of plain language 

Try to avoid these simple things:

  • Focus on irrelevant details
  • Use generic headings
  • Dumb down the message
  • Use non-familiar conventions
  • Break one concept into several sentences
  • Make two short sentences into one long sentence

If you want to make sure if your text is written in plain language, here is a checklist

Conclusion

Keeping content short and simple helps readers to understand it quicker and better. By using plain language your content will be more enjoyable and less likely to be skipped. 

If you want to learn more about good writing skills, start with the economists style guide. It tells you all you need to know. Also Google provides tips on how to create helpful, reliable, people-first content for the web.

Image: Vadim Bogulov / Unsplash

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