Plain language is human-centred.
It is clear, concise, and unambiguous. Readers trust companies that sound human and approachable.
Writing in plain language means your intended reader can read something once, understand it, and act on the information.
The International Plain Language Federation defines plain language as follows.
A communication is in plain language if its wording, structure, and design are so clear that the intended readers can easily find what they need, understand what they find, and use that information.
Plain language is not ‘dumbing down’ your writing. In fact, using plain language means you’re communicating your ideas clearly. The writer must have their thinking crystal-clear, and they must have thought about everything the reader may need to know.
Plain language delivers better results for organisations — and for everyone who interacts with them.
Readers tend to put more faith in writing that’s clear and straightforward. Using plain language means you’re transparent — you’re not hiding behind jargon, ambiguity, and acronyms. Plain language helps you connect with your readers, and build a reputation for reliability and trustworthiness.
Plain language helps people access information about things that matter to their lives. It supports accessibility because it works well with assistive devices and is easier to translate. And plain language encourages respectful and inclusive language.
One of the biggest benefits of plain language is efficiency. Every document has a cost — your time and hourly rate, and the time the reader spends on it too. Time spent untangling long and complex information, clarifying, asking for more information, fixing, and rewriting is money lost. Plain language is clear, concise, and answers all the readers’ likely questions.
Our CE Lynda Harris’ book Rewrite: How to overcome daily sabotage of your brand and profit shows the true cost of inefficient writing and shares stories of organisations that have seen the benefits of plain language
Find out about Lynda’s book
Joe Kimble’s book Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please features 50 case studies showing how plain language saves time and money.
Plain language means people understand your documents faster. It improves compliance, and reduces calls to your contact centre and time spent explaining information — because customers get what they need from your documents. Customers have a better experience, which improves their satisfaction and loyalty.
Research shows that people are more likely to read and act on information that is in plain language. And that’s true for people across different levels of literacy and experience.
International studies have found that people with high levels of education and expertise also prefer plain language. Even experts prefer plain language.
With a constant stream of online information, emails, notifications, and hours of screen time, people just want things to be presented clearly and simply.
A study by Dr Chris Trudeau found that as the complexity of content increases, so does the preference for plain language.
Read our thoughts on his research on our blog
Daniel Oppenheimer of Princeton University showed that unnecessarily complex language has a negative effect on readers’ perceptions of the writer.
Read Professor Oppenheimer’s report on the Science Daily site
Research from the Nielsen Norman Group shows that highly educated people want succinct information that’s easy to scan.
Read the article on the Nielsen Gorman Group website
You can use the Write Plain Language Standard to check your writing and see how well it works for your readers.
Download it for free from our Free Tools page
The WriteMark is a standard of excellence awarded to documents or websites that achieve a high standard of plain language.
Visit the WriteMark site to find out more about how you can achieve the WriteMark for your documents
We’d love to help you reap the benefits of plain language — get in touch by email