Gwen Davies

I run a business. What makes you think plain language makes any difference?

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On CBC radio (Canada) last week a woman talked about report cards, and how she finally gave up reading them because she had no idea what they meant. Teachers spend ages writing those things. If no one reads what you write, you have NOT said anything.

Using plain language is NOT about making your writing simple. It is about using the right approache and the right language, organization, design for the job you want to do.

Think of it like this. You want to dry your hands in a public washroom. Do you get a couple of sheets of paper towel, or do you get frustrated trying and wipe your hands on your clothes? Plain language is knowing what people need – and letting them get it.

“An average business wastes as much as 40% of its managing costs because of poor communication,” says William DuBay in Working with Plain Language.

Check this example. It comes from Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please by Joseph Kimble (Carolina Academic Press).

These three headings come from US federal regulations on citizens-band radio. The After regulations are rewritten and reorganized to make more sense.

Before
94.455 Authorized frequencies.
95.457 Policy governing the availability of frequencies.
95.437 Limitations on antenna structures.

After
94.407 On what channels may I operate?
95.408 How high may I put my antenna?
95.409 What equipment may I use at my CB station?

Plain language is a managing strategy that saves you money and makes life easier.

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