Word choices matter

The basics of plain language, pair writing policy, rethinking the word vulnerable, and five plain English myths.

Hello there

Welcome to another belated edition of Plain English Weekly, your favourite collection of exciting clear-language links and other lovely bits and bobs.

I hope you can forgive the sporadic sending schedule so far this year. Whose idea was it to add a timeframe to the name of the newsletter? What a nit.

Enjoy the links below.


PS Hello to all new subscribers! You can read about what this newsletter is or, if you're interested, find out who the heck I think I am.

The basics of plain language

Some great stuff in the Australian government's style guide:

There are 4 basic elements of plain writing. If you consider these elements, you’ll be well on the way to writing in plain language. They are: structure, word choice, active voice, short sentences.

I really like the last section that explains why plain language benefits everyone. Always worth reminding yourself. And everyone else.

A team effort: pair writing guidance with policy experts

This is a good example of pair writing in action. And it just so happens that working with policy experts on guidance is exactly what I'm doing at the moment. It can be a little gnarly at times, but 'team effort' is exactly what's required.

Words that make me go hmmm: Vulnerable

This is excellent from Bryony Shannon:

I’m not suggesting that we stop talking about vulnerability. Far from it. But what I am calling for is an end to the discriminating and patronising use of the term. That we stop the lazy, blanket application without reason or context.

In short: word choices matter.

Real content design isn’t like the books

I don't think I've met any content designers who wouldn't agree with this. The principles of content design are great and we should apply them as much as possible. But work is messy. People are messy. And being able to adapt to a situation is a crucial skill for all designers.

Five myths about plain English

All good stuff from the folks at Write, a plain language agency (I think) based in New Zealand. Their blog is full of other nuggets too, so have a little explore while you're there.

Readers possibly won’t notice your writing style if you’ve done a good job. But they’ll definitely notice if what you’ve written is confusing or hard to read.
Eleanor Meecham, Write

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