Start with principles

Some plain English essentials, how to present numbers clearly and a handy character counter tool.

Welcome to the first edition of Plain English Weekly, an exciting new newsletter for people who love clear language. I'm Iain Broome, by the way.

The format is simple. Every week, I send you five links to the internet's best advice, tools and resources created to help you write clearer, more accessible content.

That's it! Pretty simple, right?

Subscribe for free on the Plain English Weekly website and learn a little more about the project.

If someone you work with will find these emails useful, do forward them on.

And look at that – we're up and running!


How to write in plain English

This is the magic web page I've referred to and shared with others for many years. It's a short overview of plain English from the Plain English Campaign. These are the basics and a great place to start for most people.

10 principles for writing in plain English

A few years ago, Gather Content asked me to write an article for them that outlined some of the principles of plain English. In general, I always think it's a good idea to start with principles when you're learning something new. Get the essentials down and then go from there.

Anyway, the piece proved popular and you can still read it online today – hooray for the internet! Quick disclaimer – they have added a few images and maybe made some changes to the copy. Some of it looks unfamiliar, but most of it is mine!

The Handy List of Human Words

This is a great list of complex words with some suggestions for more human – clearer – alternatives. It was put together by Deanna Horton, a content designer currently at Shopify.

Designing services for people who need help with numbers

A superb resource if you create content that includes plenty of numbers. Led by Laura Parker, this project helps you present numbers and data more clearly. It includes the thinking and evidence as well as practical advice you can use in your own work right away. Lovely stuff.

Tool: Character and word counter

Just about as simple a tool as you can get. But also very useful. Paste some text in the box. Get a character and word count. Edit the text and see the counters change in real-time. Great for when you need to edit copy down to a specific length.

Extra note: one fantastic way to get better at editing existing copy into plain English is to try and halve it. So if you have 100 words, can you get it down to 50 without losing any meaning? This tool is perfect for this exercise.

"Knowing what you're trying to say is always important. But knowing what you've actually said is critical. It's easier to tell what you're saying in a short sentence."
Verlyn Klinkenborg

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Plain English weekly is written and sent by Iain Broome, a freelance content designer and copywriter from the UK. Join a growing community of clear language champs and start receiving advice and resources that help you write clearer, more accessible content.

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