The debate about using Plain English continues. The latest episode started with an essay by English author Will Self, “A Point of View: Why Orwell was a literary mediocrity”.
Yet, the point is not about whether we should all write, or avoid, Plain English. It is about using the appropriate language for the situation. When relaxing, there’s nothing more enjoyable than plunging into a literary novel and discovering new, and often obscure, words. Words that allow the imagination to roam free and create its own version of the story.
Business English needs to focus on clarity.
It needs to be to-the-point.
It needs to be understandable by all of the people who need to understand it. Many of these people are non-native speakers of English, often with a more restricted vocabulary that native speakers.
So against that background, I offer three short pieces of advice (there will probably be more to come in future posts):
- Your first draft will rarely be good enough. Make sure you reread it before you submit, or send, it. Three useful questions to ask yourself:
- Is the meaning clear?
- Will the recipient know what to do?
- Will they know when to do it by?
- Avoid long sentences. It’s easy to get lost in long sentences. It’s easy to lose track of the subject. And it’s easy for reader’s to lose interest. Cut long sentences into two.
- Watch out for ‘very’ and ‘really’. In most cases these words can be cut without any change to the meaning. I mean, it’s very obvious, isn’t it? It’s really difficult to remember. Surely you are making the same point with: It’s difficult to remember.