The magic number

Active and passive voice examples, designing with plain language, gender-inclusive writing techniques and writing for the web.

Hello there

Time for another edition of Plain English Weekly and a large, enthusiastic wave to all new subscribers. More than 600 of you now!

It's been an incredibly busy first quarter of 2024. I've just had a big ol' project come to an end and it went really well. Lovely feedback! Fingers crossed, I'll have a little more time to get the newsletter back on a regular schedule.

Speaking of which... enjoy the links below.


Active and passive voice examples (with added quizzes)

The British Council have a page packed with active and passive voice examples that you might find handy. This is typically the trickiest bit of getting good at writing in plain English, so the more examples to work from the better. They come with a few drag-and-drop quiz questions too. What a bonus!

Designing with plain language

Over on the Sensory Trust website, there is this page full of sensible advice on writing in plain language. I love that more and more organisations seem to be publishing this kind of guidance too.

9 Rules for Web Writing

This blog post from Dan Brotzel also contains plenty of advice that will help you write better content. Not entirely sure this bit about three being the magic number is a universal rule, but it does provide a nice structural constraint.

Three benefits. Three simple steps. Three sections to your speech. Whether at the level of an entire campaign or within the syntax of an individual sentence, three is structural gold.

Gender-inclusive writing techniques

Here, the Canadian government provides links to a range of articles to help you write gender-inclusive content. Actually, this whole page on inclusive language is full of advice and guidelines.

Clear language for legal, medical and financial content

You perhaps know about Readability Guidelines, a project to create a collaborative, universal style guide. Thought the website is no longer being updated, it still lives and you can mine it for all sorts of clear language goodies.

This section on legal, medical and financial content is great, but it also includes loads of links to other articles. If you work in these areas and want to persuade your bosses or colleagues that plain English is the way forward, you are sure to find something to help you.

"Online readers are time-poor scanners: anything that could trip up their processing of your words means a vital message could get missed. In print, ambiguity can spell playfulness and intrigue; online, it just gets in the way."
Dan Brotzel

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