The Case for Simpler Language in Complex Times
Simpler language is a movement taking route worldwide and promoted by educators, citizen groups and in some cases law makers. Putting it into practice is a challenge.
Its supporters are not just taking on professions who cling to the many archaic phrases and complicated words they used traditionally. This, in part is habit unchallenged by others in say the legal, or medical professions and in part a need for very specific language when they speak to each other.
Connecting to the general population that does not live and breathe the way they describe their discipline is what is the point of plain language. The movement is not limited to the English language.
Complex communication due to sophisticated technical devices, speed on contact and response challenges many kinds of people.
People may struggle with memory, lack of technical or motor skills, access to equipment and they may be immigrants. Plain language could help anyone who must find their way through systems, forms, rules, regulations and complex language. We can all encounter legalese and medical jargon and sometimes simply government gobbledygook and political doublespeak to muddy our understanding.
It can be as basic as literacy levels.
Did you know, in the average communication, at best, only 50% gets through?
Literacy issues are not simply the ability to read, but also to comprehend. Imagine not understanding fully what is being said or written. How can you made decisions, know your rights? There is danger in not understanding legal or medical information. Imagine the confidence lacking in the life of a person not able to manage essential household bills or to upgrade their opportunities by learning new skills using a training manual?
How do we fix the future of understanding?
Plain language is clear and to the point. Many people would like governments, businesses, lawyers, and insurance companies in particular to communicate in a way that matches the needs of its readers and customers.
A clear message is understood the first time you read it. It is usable. It is repeatable.
Can you guess the one industry that excels in clear messages?
It’s marketing. Marketers are quick to deal with the, “I’m just so full of myself” copy that is complex or talks down to customers. If they don’t, they’ll lose business.
So, without legislation and without threats to go to plain language now demanded of governments and other institutions, business leads the way.
Any smart marketer understands that, “A confused mind does not buy, does not make decisions, will walk away along with its owner and you won’t make a sale.”
In my own life, I had to first acquire English. I struggled then excelled, zooming ahead of my classmates to mastery and then to harnessing its power professionally.
I can tell you that plain writing was essential to any writing job. It was a hard adjustment. I loved the more than a million word choices in the English language more than you can know!
Now I help others get to their points, clearly, directly and effectively. Through communication workshops or by editing, I educate individual or company managers, consultants and business owners to untangle phrases. When they drop the habit of bureaucratic language, they create readable and interesting information
Why people get weird with words
You’ll hear a radio personality or someone posting quickly in social media. You’ll catch when they have not confirmed the meaning of a word before blurting it out. You’ll watch it go ‘viral’ and infect anyone.
So, we see weird word use done out of ignorance.
Habit was mentioned under the theme of, “That’s just the way we’ve always done it.”
Desire to impress also causes people to be pompous or to throw around what I like to call” big old’ $10 words.”
Start simplifying today
Apply plain-English principles and you’ll improve the readability of letters and memos, reports and newsletters, brochures and presentations, instruction manuals and legal documents, and most other documents. The principles can help with news releases and Web pages. There will be less turmoil when you translate English documents into other languages.
Write with your audience in mind:
• Speak or write in the language they understand
• Avoid unnecessary jargon, acronyms and abbreviations
• Use accepted grammar and punctuation to guide people clearly
• Be consistent in your spelling choices
• Present your information so that the page is welcoming, professional and easy to read and understand
• Omit any unnecessary information
• Use short sentences – they help people to remember and to understand
VIP Your very important pattern is to create correct, concise and clear messages. Simpler is less likely to be misunderstood. Keep it plain and simple. Impress by using simple language clearly.
Next time, more questions in our mail bag!