New Year’s Resolution: Let’s All Speak Plain English

Pascale Chauvot

4 Jan 2017

Everyone speaks differently. Levels of directness, the use of active or passive voice, the verbosity, and indeed the type of vocabulary and jargon vary greatly from one user to the next. Speaking is about making sure you are understood. So why do we overcomplicate everything? Whether you are a native English speaker or not, speaking plain English is the best policy. Read on to discover why…

Plain English: A language for all

Well not really…

  • Educated Indians prefer more complicated words to simpler ones and the indirect tone to the direct
  • The Japanese, meanwhile, prefer the impersonality and the distance of the passive voice
  • The French are more comfortable using Latinate words since many are the same in their own language, and therefore simpler and more natural

The abruptness or directness of English (as it is used by most native speakers) can seem a bit startling at first


International Companies Need to Standardise Their Communication Styles

It becomes vital to overcoming internal and external barriers, be they linguistic, cultural or personal

Apart from creating certain barriers to clear communication, such differences also highlight the cultural and personal differences with the consequent effect on understating, risk to misinterpretation as well as the impact of the written word on personal and professional relationships.

As companies grow and become international in character, both with staff drawn from different countries and global clientele, it becomes vital to overcoming internal and external barriers, be they linguistic, cultural or personal.

One of the many measures required to eradicate these differences, that affect personalities and productivity, is to produce unambiguous, simple and direct communication.

Standardising the style and usage of language across the organisation is, for many organisations, a good starting point.

Be Accurate, Brief and Clear – Use Plain English

Staff can be trained to use plain English which promotes the ABC of Accurate, Brief and Clear language.

Plain English does not mean dumbing down the way we communicate by using simplistic English. In fact, it takes skill and practice to write precisely, concisely and cohesively according to Plain English guidelines.

Plain English discourages the use of:

The idea (of plain English) is to express and not to impress

It recommends and teaches the use of:

  • Strong verbs
  • Active voice
  • Conciseness
  • Cohesive and coherent language

The idea is to express and not to impress.

Even punctuation is standardised to an extent by the use of open as opposed to closed punctuation.

Let’s start 2017 with a new year’s resolution – to write plain English!

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