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What is Plain English?

  • What is Plain English?

    Plain English is a different way of writing. It is communication your audience can understand the first time they read it.

    Plain English is not simple English. But it is easier than the complicated English you learned at school. It is easier to learn and easier to use.

    This is why Plain English is the perfect solution in Asia where English is the second language.

  • What do we mean?

    We learn English at school to pass exams. But at work we need English to communicate.

    Workplace English is about communication, not about complication.

    Here are some key differences.

    Academic English at School Plain Plain English at Work
    You need 1,000 rules to know the language. You only need 14 rules to use Plain English correctly.
    The longer and more complicated the sentence, the higher your grade. Short sentences are best.
    Big bombastic words really impress teachers. Well-known, everyday words are understood by everyone.
    You need a big vocabulary to get an 'A'. You only need to know about 900 English words to write about anything.
    Complicated verbs show how educated you are. Use simple tense and you don't make grammar mistakes.
    Passive language sounds more important. Active language is clearer and people understand it better.
  • Examples

    Example BEFORE Example AFTER
    In our endeavour to ensure guest safety at all times, can visitors please note that fire bell testing is carried out every Monday at 9.30am. We test the fire bell every Monday at 9.30am. We want to make sure you are safe at all times.
    If there are any points on which you require explanation or further particulars we shall be glad to furnish such additional details as may be required by telephone. If you have any questions, please phone us.

    Let us teach your staff the 8 Plain English techniques they need to write effectively at work.

  • Why use Plain English at work?

    All organisations should use Plain English when communicating with their customers, suppliers and employees because messages are clear and effective.

    Think of how much money and time you and your readers can save, when they can:

    • find the information they need quickly, and
    • use what they find to meet their needs.

    In short, Plain English will deliver value to your business:

    • save time and money:
      - produce written information faster
      - spend less time finding, reading and understanding information
    • improve productivity
      - less mistakes at the workplace as instructions and business decisions are easier to understand
    • increase efficiency
      - better communication leads to better business process flow, better customer service
    • improve customer service
      - clearer communication results in fewer enquiries, fewer complaints and fewer helpdesk calls

  • Many businesses in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand began communicating in Plain English more than a decade ago.

    The success has been proven and documented. Here are some case results:

    Company Results
    Royal Insurance of Canada A 38% sales rise when Plain English was used in insurance policies for homeowners
    Ernst & Young Link Plain English to process improvement and added value of a business
    US Navy Reading time reduced by 20% when memos were written in Plain English
    General Electric Saved USD375,000 in customer support by redrafting manuals into Plain English
    British Telecom Reduced customer queries by 25% after producing bills in Plain English

    What can you do now? Find out about our courses.