are only able to write this way if you understand exactly what it is that you
want to say. Don’t think you are ‘dumbing it down’. You are communicating in a
clear, simple manner.
language even more important.
of plain language:
There is no ambiguity.
It is faster to read.
It is faster to write.
Simplify your word choice.
Shorten your sentences.
Use the active voice.
of your document. There are many free online tools that you can use as well. [Read Why You Should Care About Readability Statistics] The
Microsoft tool calculates the number of characters per word, the numbers of
words per sentence as well as the number of sentences per paragraph. At the end you will be given a passivity percentage, a grade level, and a readability percentage. Ideally you want your grade to be around 7, your readability to be above 70% and your passive voice below 10%.
Word choice: If
you use simple words, there will be no confusion about the meaning of the word.
Strive for, on average, 4 characters per word. Remember you will use many short words such as ‘is’ and ‘a’ as well as many 6 or 8 character words to achieve this average. However, you should avoid very
If you keep your sentences short you will find it easier to remain in the
active voice. You will be able to avoid tense and punctuation mistakes. Try
to use sentences that have an average of 9-13 words. Remember, it’s an average.
You will use five word sentences, and you will use twenty word sentences, but
when you start writing 34 or 45 word sentences you should cut them.
Simple words and short sentences will help you to keep your paragraphs short.
Short paragraphs help to create white space. If you keep your paragraphs
between 3-5 lines or sentences, you will be able to place the emphasis on the
correct information. Your first sentence should be the most the important
sentence and you should keep it down to one thought or point per paragraph.
communication. If your messages are succinct and clear you will be an effective
communicator. Consider your reader. Ask this question before you start writing: What
do you want the reader to do after reading your message? This will help you decide what information to
space next week.
If you are interested in learning how to improve your business writing skills, join us for The Plain Language Programme.
by Mia Botha
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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write – Write to communicate.