What plain English can do for your organisation
If you used plain English in your emails, web pages, letters, reports, leaflets and forms you could save thousands of pounds this year. If those documents aren't as clear as they could be, you could be losing money and customers – year after year. It is as simple as that.
How much time do your people spend communicating with each other, with customers, with prospective customers? How many messages do they produce in a day, a week, a year? If those messages aren't clear, think how much time they could be wasting. Does your organisation suffer from any of these problems:
- people spending more time in meetings trying to decide what reports are saying than discussing their recommendations?
- instructions and policy documents that staff ignore because they don't understand them?
- 'explanatory' documents that lead to even more puzzled phone calls from customers?
- customer documents that even your staff struggle to understand?
- important letters that customers simply don't reply to?
- forms that people always fill in incorrectly, or don't fill in at all?
These problems used to plague most organisations, but over the last two decades a 'culture of clarity' has been gaining ground all over the English-speaking world. In the United Kingdom, government departments, banks, insurance companies, local councils and many other organisations have realised that clear communication is actually a good idea. Instead of writing to impress or confuse, they are now writing to inform and explain. They are using plain English to do this.
We're proud to have been part of this change. Since 1996 we've been helping all kinds of organisations to use plain English and reap the rewards through cost savings and improved customer relations. However big or small your organisation, we have the resources and skills to help you.
- If you are already using plain English, our corporate membership and document accreditation schemes will help you get the recognition you deserve.
- If you've still some way to go, our editing and training services will help you get there.
If you think you might need our help, why not contact us today? After all, your competitors may be using plain English already.
© The Word Centre
Beware the spell checker
One of the benefits of using almost any word-processing program is that it comes with a spell checker. You can quickly check your piece of writing and correct any spelling mistakes the program finds. Of course, this doesn't guarantee that your writing will be grammatically correct, be easy to understand or even make sense.
Does your organisation take employees' writing skills for granted? Most people we meet have not been trained Try a free lesson!
Word to edit out: 'whatsoever' as in 'for any reason whatsoever . . .'. The word 'any' does the job perfectly well on its own. #plainEnglish
Delays in the metro in newcastle due to "low rail adhesion" I think that's code for leaves in the track. #plainenglish
Word to edit out: 'period' as in 'The contract is for a five-year period' becomes 'The contract is for five years'. #plainEnglish
#plainEnglish tip: If you think you're too busy to plan your message, that means you’re too busy *not* to plan. Be kind to yourself – plan!v
Just read "wrap around services" twice in relation to proposed services for children. What does that mean? In plain English? #jargon
Word to edit out: 'ongoing' as in 'We are carrying out ongoing research'. Write 'We are researching' instead. #plainEnglish
#plainEnglish tip: A form is a substitute for a well-structured interview. Ask simple, sensible questions and you will get sensible answers.
I don't want to "reach out" to them... I just want to talk to them. There should be no need for bodily contact... #jargon
Words to edit out: 'on a . . . basis' as in 'on an annual basis' and so on. You can rewrite easily: 'every year', and so on. #plainEnglish
"Be simple, be short, be human" (Sir Ernest Gowers, author of The Complete Plain Words, 1954)
Don't trust your spell checker to do everything for you. New article #plainEnglish
We've revamped our online #plainEnglish course. Do the whole course or work on individual topics. Try a free lesson!
We cannot ask students directly about 'belonging', 'engagement' and 'experience' - they won't know what we mean #jargon #raise14
Word to edit out: 'located', as in 'The office is located on the third floor'. Just write 'The office is on the third floor'. #plainEnglish
#plainEnglish tip: Establish a plain English culture in your organisation, so that using plain English is simply "the way we do things here"
Word to edit out: 'environment' as in ' . . accidents in the home environment'. Say 'in the home' or 'in and around the home'. #plainEnglish
Our consumer tracker shows that 48% of #consumers distrust #energy suppliers
#IGF2014 "The language we use excludes many from the discussion" #jargon #MoreThanEnglish #DNSKeep things simple #Inclusive #Accessible #plainEnglish
IFA's Out of Office email of the day: "We're out of the office on holiday - your email has been deleted"
Word to edit out: 'currently' as in 'We are currently installing . . .'. If you're doing it now, no need to say 'currently'.
Style guide: Don't use "tight ship" as a verb.
Thinking of #switching insurers? Have a look first at how many people complained to @financialombuds about them http://bit.ly/1n5Dhx0
Payday loan problems still on the rise - read our latest figures here via @BBCNews http://bbc.in/1pCW9b6
"Just 28% of tenants who receive housing benefit said they fully understood welfare reforms" http://gu.com/p/4x6qq/tw #ukhousing #plainEnglish
Word to edit out: 'actively', as in 'we will actively . . .'. After all, you wouldn't be doing it *inactively*, would you? #plainEnglish
FCA: Lenders have agreed to reassess more than 2.5 million complaints which they may have dealt with unfairly #PPI http://bit.ly/1tRBQ9i
Received in an email from a lawyer "We shall revert to you upon any substantive update." looking forward to be reverted to. #plainenglish
FCA fines RBS and NatWest over £14m for failings in mortgage advice. Only 2 of 164 sales reviewed met standard http://bit.ly/1sAq40X
.@CitizensAdvice is to get £3m from EDF Energy after Ofgem found that the energy giant breached complaints procedures http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/governance/news/content/18044/edf_energy_to_pay_citizens_advice_3m_over_complaints_breach
#plainEnglish tip: Don’t use CAPS or underlining for emphasis – they interfere with the word shapes and slow readers down. Use bold instead.
If you don’t have enough cash in your account to cover a payment, this new scheme could help you avoid charges: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/bank-accounts/11045196/Current-account-payment-retry-Banks-widen-second-chance-system-on-bank-charges.html
Always amused by #spam emails headed 'From the desk of . . . ' followed by impressive-sounding name with a middle initial. Still junk them.
Vendor tip: if your cold email has the word “synergies” in it, the only button I can see is the ‘delete' one. #jargon
We've added dozens of new entries to our online #plainEnglish phrase book and given it a new look http://bit.ly/1oUzNBD
What does the NHS need: 'empowered consumers' or 'grateful patients'? http://bit.ly/1pSkOXQ
Being a loyal customer costs the typical British household £550 a year. The best deals go to new customers http://bit.ly/1lbFURw
'Hydrospray'!? don't you mean 'Water'? Since when did fire extinguishers have #jargon http://instagram.com/p/r1frRNMI5c/ #plainEnglish
We're campaigning for mobiles to be unlocked for free. 32k+ people back us - do you? http://whi.ch/M0B1L3S #UnlockMobiles #YouandYours
Shoot me if I ever say or write "phablet." #jargon
Struck by conversation with taxidriver. Tells me about #caring role for daughter "been told to get an advocate - what is that?". #jargon. #plainEnglish
We’re so close to receiving 20k signatures on our #UnlockMobiles campaign. Have you added your name? http://whi.ch/M0B1L3S
Have you used 'municipal' services lately? I haven't, but I have used 'council' ones. Hate pomposity! #plainenglish #writereallife
Never be too busy/tired etc to listen to a patient, never be too busy/tired etc to explain - patiently and in #plainEnglish #TipsForNewDocs
Classic advice on plain words from the Fowlers—100+ years ago. #plainlanguage #writing http://pic.twitter.com/KaClDFmq8v
ASA cracks down on #payday loan advertising that 'trivialises borrowing', after complaints from Citizens Advice http://bit.ly/1rOgiM5
People don't 'terminate' or 'discontinue' tenancies - they END them. Write real life! #housing #plainenglish #writereallife
Nearly 1/2 the car insurance co.s we looked at increased admin or cancellation fees since our last survey 3yrs ago, one by 200% #SneakyFees
Digital isn't everything many social housing tenants prefer paper http://bit.ly/1nughJX #ukhousing
Supermarkets are still misleading customers with their 'special offers' - Which? investigation http://bit.ly/1nV9uVl
Why don't the big telecomms companies come together with the #NHS to offer free wifi for patients?
I propose abolishing the empty word "engagement" except for people planning to get married. #marketing #jargon #plainEnglish
FCA proposes cap on #paydayloan charges, including penalties, so no one pays back more than twice the sum borrowed http://bit.ly/1oCIX0b
Review of price comparison websites finds widespread failings in the way #insurance policies sold to customers http://bit.ly/1jyl51k
Support reps: Your mastery of tech is useless if you're unable to communicate your knowledge simply. Don't make people feel stupid. #Jargon #plainEnglish
BBC: Dental charity blames bad baby teeth on 'child neglect' http://t.co/yuU1CVniiA#DentalHealth
reading an academic report. Brain melted. It's just the words 'framework' and 'partnership' over and over. Like binary #sotired #jargon #plainEnglish
When did we replace the word "detail" with "granular"? I'm always the last to know #managementspeak #jargon
The Student Loan Company has stopped sending out misleading letters that pretended to be from a debt-recovery firm http://bit.ly/1qlWVHV #plainEnglish
#plainEnglish tip: if you’re tempted to use a complex style, remember how simple yet profound many sayings are: eg 'More haste, less speed'.
We hit a ‘Fix the #BigSix’ milestone - find out why @Ofgem has called on @CMAgovUK to investigate the #energy market http://whi.ch/cmaenergy
Do you think that terms like 'self-care' or 'patient activation' mean anything to the real users? #jargon #selfcare14
Payday lender Wonga to pay £2.6m compensation for 'unfair and misleading' debt collection practices http://bit.ly/1nEjLad
Whom do we trust the most? Charities have slipped down the list, but government and politicians are bottom http://bit.ly/1wrTOA2
'Mullered' and 61 other words for being beaten at sport (seems appropriate) http://bbc.in/1iAUdNJ
4,000 English households risk losing homes every week, say @Shelter http://bit.ly/1j6VJAQ
Which? research: online ticket companies are still charging a huge range of fees that are not revealed 'upfront' bit.ly/SXrMNK
Yet another piece with the 'new' idea that doctors shouldn't use #jargon on patients. It's not about banning words folks, its about empathy! #plainEnglish
I've just witnessed someone using the phrase "conversation innovation funnel" without flinching. Impressive.
The poorest fifth of UK households are significantly worse off than the poorest fifth in other W European countries http://bit.ly/1nfK06C
'Leverage' is not a verb, thank you. #jargon
Which? survey: 65% of people don’t trust pension providers to offer impartial guidance on their retirement options http://bit.ly/1n8F3fU
How Gen Motors' calling a flawed ignition switch a 'customer convenience issue' & not a safety problem cost 13 lives http://onforb.es/1xxF6sV #plainEnglish
Not only did banks mis-sell PPI, but some of them may have underpaid compensation to many customers who were mis-sold http://bbc.in/1kBUjDE
About to go into a meeting where I just know technical Work Bingo will dominate #jargon
If I hear the phrase "reach out" one more time... #jargon #annoying
Report from the debt charity StepChange: 15 million people in UK report one or more signs of financial difficulty http://bit.ly/1sGbDKE
Every building society that turned into a bank has failed or been taken over. We tell the story of demutualisation - http://s.coop/1uer6
#plainEnglish tip: Use 'personal pronouns': 'I', 'we' and 'you' (& 'our' and 'your' etc which derive from them) to make your writing human.
13m households in UK have probs with their internet connection & nearly half have much slower speeds than expected http://bit.ly/1nbBTge
Ok, I'm ready to be done with "deep dive" as a phrase for everything. "In depth" can stay. #jargon
Pfizer letter to select committee: (Astra deal is) "An opportunity to bring together the “best of the best” of each organisation". #jargon #plainEnglish
It used to be a train station. Now it's a "calling point" @chilternrailway #jargon #plainEnglish
Someone is trying to sell us their 'Multichannel Marketing Automation Platform'. Honestly have no clue what that might be #jargon #plainEnglish
Having a clear and readable #complaints procedure might mean more complaints at first, but you *need* those complaints if you are to improve #plainEnglish
My least-favourite phrase at the mo: 'informed by' as in 'our policy has been informed by ...' No it hasn't. #plainEnglish #jargon
Doing some training on our Project Management method and have learned that we have a process called Perform Focus Synergy Sessions. #jargon
#plainEnglish tip: Don’t think planning or proofreading are a waste of time. It will cost you more time if your msg is unclear or inaccurate
Reliance on #jargon is a rather transparent attempt to hide your terror that we'll find out you really don't do a great deal. #plainEnglish
Are there any political parties in the UK #localgov elections specifically promising plain English/language public services? #le2014 #plainEnglish
Are you off to a gig or show this weekend? If high #TicketFees tick you off, why not add your name to our campaign http://whi.ch/PlayFair
Does your organisation have a 'blind spot' about the #clarity of its documents? Most organisations do. http://bit.ly/1lAFC05 #plainEnglish
Victims of miscarriages of justice receive less support after release than prisoners guilty of a crime. http://bit.ly/1iRvgeD
Seriously, sales dude, stop saying "thought leader." I can't take you seriously. At all.... #jargon #plainEnglish
What is the law about tooth whitening? Read all you need to know about safe tooth whitening: http://safetoothwhitening.org #SafeToothWhitening
Which research: 'Bank staff can’t give customers basic information about the Financial Services Compensation Scheme' http://bit.ly/1jD8i8Q #plainEnglish
I got a copy of the changes to be made in learning disability provision in Oxfordshire and can’t understand a word of it. #jargon #pathways #plainEnglish
Consultancy that took upfront fee of £165 per customer for council tax banding challenges helped in just 1% of cases
Terrible #conference #jargon:coalface, "to knife and fork", "inverse segue way", "results are skewered by..", "secret sauce" #givemestrength #plainEnglish
99% of you said companies should scrap high-rate no's for customer helplines in 2013 http://whi.ch/130zF9y In 2014 banks told to ditch them
“Only 20%” of NHS Trust boards say they use complaint information to review & improve patient safety -Julie Mellor, health service ombudsman
Just included the phrase "enhanced shareability" in this plan. Yes, I hate myself too right now. #jargon #socialmedia #plainEnglish
FCA: many customers are confused about costs and pay too much for #overdrafts. Overdraft market worth £8bn a year. #plainEnglish
#plainEnglish tip: Help your readers find what they are looking for quickly. Use contents lists, headings & sub headings, and bullet lists.
Long awaited bailff reform aims to raise standards and eliminate agressive bailiffing http://ow.ly/vxZjq
The real cost of funds: five hidden charges. Fund managers say they charge 0.75pc but the real costs are far higher http://bit.ly/1hlgZYh #plainEnglish
FCA: Three quarters of financial advisers fail to give clients enough information about the cost of their services http://bit.ly/1mUZde1 #plainEnglish
I have been hearing people use the word "leverage" as a verb with increasing frequency. But it is a noun. Perhaps I missed the memo. #jargon #plainEnglish
Judge asks for plain English version of bankruptcy plan for Detroit's public workers ahead of vote on pension cuts http://bit.ly/1pVPSSU #plainEnglish
"We are segregating the delivery of the solution along architectural lines" - best email today #jargon #worklife #plainEnglish
When you're reading the labels remember that ‘no added sugar' doesn't necessarily mean that the product is sugar free http://www.dentalhealth.org/tell-me-about/topic/caring-for-teeth/diet …
FCA to get tough with payday lenders "Our processes will probably force about 1/4 of the firms out of the industry." http://bbc.in/1gWNFY2
#plainEnglish tip: Always read through and revise everything you write. No one gets it right first time. Then have someone check it for you.
Feel free to drop in a full stop & resist urge of running circles around the point you're trying to make #academic #jargon #incomprehensible #plainEnglish
http://www.patientopinion.org.uk An independent site where you can leave feedback about yr experiences of UK health services, good or bad. Great idea!
"Vibrant hub initiative strategy". Ehhh?. #jargon #nonsense (cc )
Just reading a sentence. As Eric Morecambe nearly said: "it's got all the right words, but not necessarily in the right order" #plainEnglish
"The social strategy is an initiative of the integral overall marketing mix" sorry WHAT? #jargon #nonsense
Richard Branson Says To Avoid Business Jargon - Business Insider http://ow.ly/uM6dx #business #jargon
#jargon alert: if the new owner of your #football club talks about 'this brand' that's an amber alert; 'this franchise' = definite red alert #plainEnglish
Disturbing and repulsive: A 26 yr-old jobseeker tried to add a senior exec of a job bank on LinkedIn. Her response... http://bit.ly/1kFlSdB
Which? research: people are facing a distressing 'maze of confusing advice and information' when seeking care http://bit.ly/1eOF1oB #plainEnglish
As @einstein might say, we need to spend more time clarifying what our question is, before trying to answer it. #nhsparticipation
#plainEnglishtip When you’ve finished writing, read it aloud. If there are probs with complex or unusual words, you’ll hear where they are.
Which? research: despite Ofgem's suggested 'simplified' tariffs only 1 in 3 people tested could find the best deal http://bit.ly/1hi99uv #plainEnglish
I hate the phrase "in terms of". Take a look at this paragraph. #jargon
If you want the public to really care about what you do, cut the indecipherable #jargon.... Embedding a dignity intervention tool' indeed!
Which? research: a third (34%) of people who have had a problem with public services in the past year didn’t complain http://bit.ly/1cBAwCu
FCA to review payday lenders' debt-collection practices. Over a 1/3rd of payday loans are repaid late or not at all. http://bit.ly/1qv6cgC
Do you think it’s unfair that payday lenders charge huge fees for late payments? Sign our petition http://whi.ch/CleanUpCredit
Reply from a health-info site when I pointed out that their articles could be a lot clearer: 'Oh, we've no budget for that!'. #plainEnglish
From an unnamed council: "These targets will be inexplicably linked to the monitoring regime for the strategy" #bureaucracyhowlers
in my 1st week in housing, I had to go and inspect some properties listed as "reverse staircased" #NHFComms14 #plain English
#plainEnglish tip: Aim for an average sentence length of 15 to 20 words. Try to have no more than one or two ideas in most of your sentences
Jargon doesn't make you sound smarter; it makes you sound the other thing. - RA #jargon
So "assembly on site" meant "take the protective covering off"!
Agency trying to woo my company cheerfully offers to do all our "ideating." Let me slap somebody.
It always amazes me how many organisations think their documents are great just because _they_ can understand them ok. #jargon #plainEnglish
Just for future reference, there is no such word as "ideate" #advertising #jargon
#plainEnglish tip: write ‘actively’ rather than ‘passively’. For example: ‘the boss closed the door’, not ‘the door was closed by the boss’.
No one says their car "has faulted". No one says their phone "has faulted". Yet rail companies tell us trains "have faulted". #jargon
Excellent blog by @adrianshort from 2012 on building better council websites -- just as relevant today http://bit.ly/1gMGpK8
UK Cabinet Office & search engines to crack down on copycat sites that charge for services gov't provides for free http://bit.ly/1hBxbm6
BBC to Ross McEwan of RBS: "Are you going to cut branches?" McEwan: "Branch numbers are trending off..." #plainenglish
FCA publishes tough new rules to govern the conduct of payday lenders and debt management companies. http://bit.ly/1obqo36
Vote in the People's Choice Award for best #plainEnglish summary of a science paper #A2Ucomp http://wp.me/p1zNUn-KM via @SDenegri
It's shocking that some of the biggest #energy companies are sitting on millions of pounds worth of families' cash http://whi.ch/NC7EOT
Ofgem tells #BigSix energy firms to return £400million to consumers from closed accounts http://bbc.in/1fNS0uv
#plainEnglish tip: Use everyday, familiar words whenever you can. Don’t use a complicated word where a simple one will do the same job.
Can anyone help me rid the world of the phrase "transformational change"? What next, eggy eggs? Handy hands? #jargon
We're urging MEPs to reject the Common European Sales Law today as it will reduce the rights of UK consumers
What on earth does risk stratification in a health and social care context mean? #jargon
Payday lenders refuse to act after @WhichCampaigns calls for default fees to be reduced. Time for the FCA to step in: http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/money-payday-loans-overdrafts/FCA-must-intervene-on-high-default-fees/ …
If the label 'National Insurance' is 'misleading' and should be changed, what can we say about 'Value Added Tax'? http://dailym.ai/1fikI1T
The taking-money-off-people-without-them-noticing departments will be on overtime after MIFID II plans for honesty and clarity passed by EU.
Yes! #jargon #credibility "hijacking normal words and using them in odd ways to make them sound "businessy."
Which? petition to get insurers to also show cost of previous year's insurance on renewal notices http://bit.ly/1bocudw #plainenglish
New NHS data-sharing scheme in England for medical records delayed by six months due to poor impact of comms campaign http://bbc.in/1mrp291
#plainEnglish tip: Plan your report & get yr plan approved. Then no one can say ‘what you’ve written is great, but it wasn’t what I wanted’
"Engage an understanding of the strategy loop". Your daily nonsense talk from people who don't understand #plainenglish #business
Despite the fuss and advance publicity, fewer than a third of adults remember getting the NHS leaflet on data sharing http://bbc.in/1gAtMDm
When meetings are boring I like to write down #jargon people use. Unpack the process, at the coalface, good callout, create space to align
40% of consumer insurance complaints are upheld by the Financial Ombudsman so worth using if you're fighting for flood damage pay out.
Pension firms guilty of not using #plainEnglish when selling annuities to consumers, says Financial Ombudsman Service http://bit.ly/1iW4SPv
#plainEnglish tip: If a lot of people are going to read your document, always test it first on a representative sample of the readership.
Key note speech is turning into key word speech. #jargon #gibberish
Banks & building societies using high-rate phone numbers for their flood helplines. Nice that they're as humane and public spirited as ever.
30 seconds into this meeting and I've heard "deliverables" 4 times.... #jargon #gonnabealongday
#plainEnglish tip: If you’re using a Q&A approach, always ask questions that real people would ask. Then make sure you actually answer them.
Thought you knew what 'affordable' meant? Think again, if it's 'affordable housing' you have in mind http://bit.ly/LrcCwq #misleading #plainEnglish
Are your documents damaging your chances of success? Why you need to use #plainEnglish http://bit.ly/1jLFhpU
Is it unreasonable to get irritated when writers keep using 'those' when they mean 'people'? #offputting #plainEnglish please
Good article about how using #jargon and not #plainEnglish can destroy your business http://bit.ly/1eiJVgA Applies to any profession/field.
That's the problem with editing medical leaflets - when a furniture firm emails me about a 'new stool collection' I just don't want to know.
Always bothered by designers who don't give a monkey's about web accessibility for people with disabilities. Not their problem = no problem.
Why do medical leaflets read like an interview with a well-meaning but patronising doctor? Authors too close to the subject! #plainEnglish
Dilbert on #managementspeak and #jargon #plainEnglish http://bit.ly/1blVfUs
#plainEnglish tip: Use bullet lists to help important information stand out, to make choices clear and to break up complicated sentences.
Work is a #jargon spouting factory: 'keep it top line', 'email me by COB', 'we need more shape-shifters'...Shape-shifters...really?!
Any changes to #phone contract terms, pricing or otherwise, must be communicated clearly & transparently say @Ofcom http://whi.ch/1eSHLlG
I was a bit confused when I came across this in our hotel bathroom because down our way, we call it soap
#plainEnglish tip: Read your writing out loud and ask yourself "Is this what I would say to someone if I was able to talk to them instead?"
High charges are one of the biggest factors that tip borrowers into a spiral of debt. Help us #CleanUpCredit http://whi.ch/1foRWmV
HS2 sent nearly 150 letters telling people they would need to move out of their homes for 203 weeks. They meant “two or three weeks”.#whoops
Which? survey: a year on from the horsemeat scandal, councils are struggling to enforce hygiene rules http://bit.ly/1a42YvI
It seems we are past the point of being humans that our elected officials are accountable to- now we are simply, "the taxpayers." #jargon
#plainEnglishtip Don’t forget your manners. Say ‘please’ when you want your readers to do something. This also helps you avoid being abrupt.
Which? believes payday lenders are 'acting unlawfully' by charging excessive default fees. Unfair Contract Terms regs http://bit.ly/1eA7TBB
#plainEnglish tip: To have an workable sentence you only need one idea. So always use short sentences to make punchy points & ask questions.