Plain English services from the Word Centre

More about using the phrase book

Writing handUsing familiar or 'everyday' words is one of the main plain English principles. Unfortunately, it can be hard sometimes to change the way you write about a familiar topic. And we all have our pet words and phrases that we've picked up over the years. Sometimes these are in less-than-plain English. This phrase book will be a great help when you are stuck for the right word.

The phrase book isn't just a random collection of words. We've trawled through many of the documents we've edited over the years, looking for the words and phrases we have to edit most often. So we know that these words are the ones that writers tend to use instead of the ordinary, everyday words that readers tend to prefer. We are sure this makes the phrase book much more relevant and helpful.

Of course, there is more to writing in plain English than just crossing out complicated words and putting 'easy' ones in their place. You need to apply the other principles too, and you can learn more about these if you follow the 'more about plain English' link on the left.

You may also need to alter other parts of the sentence if you use our 'plain English' alternative. For example: if you look at our suggestion for the word 'compulsory' you will see 'must'. The two words aren't interchangeable in a sentence. Imagine a sentence with 'compulsory' in it: 'Going to three meetings a week is compulsory'. To use 'must', you need to re-arrange the sentence: 'You must go to three meetings a week'. Or you could use our other suggestion 'have to' in the same way. Get the picture? It will get easier to use the phrase book as you get more used to the idea of plain English.

After some of the entries you will see more. This is a link that will open a pop-up box with more advice on how to use our suggestions.

What's wrong with the words on the left?

The short answer is 'nothing'. To us there are no such things as 'good words' and 'bad words'. However, there is much more chance your reader will struggle to understand you if you use too many of the words on the left. The words on the right are also more user friendly and will create a better image for you with your reader.

What if the word I want to change isn't there?

If you can't find the word you want to change please let us know. Just email us the word or phrase, with a sentence to give us some context, and we'll get back to you with our suggestions. We'll also add it to the phrase book so that other users can reap the benefit! We can only help you if you've subscribed to the full version of the phrase book.

Good luck in your quest for plain English.


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