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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Show plain language your sensitive side in our multilingual society | Caryn Gootkin, The Media Online

In this article, blogger Gootkin cautions against the temptation to overwrite and baffle with jargon, focusing on why plain language is so important in her country of South Africa:
[I]nflated language and overwritten descriptions work well for humour. Especially if the topic you are making fun of is the annoying tendency to use inflated language and overwritten descriptions.
But beyond that, there is no reason for such loquaciousness.
Emphasizing that elegance in writing, stylistic flourishes and witty wordplay are fine, Gootkin draws the line at verbosity.
You should always write in plain language, no matter what the context of your writing is, because you will get your message across more quickly and in a way that more people can understand more easily. ...
She notes that South African law compels the use of plain language when communicating with consumers. But she suggests it should be required in every field, with one exception.
If you are a technical specialist, and are communicating only with other specialists in your field, knock yourself and your peers out with jargon and grandiloquence, if you must. But not when there is a chance one of us mere mortals will read your writing.
We need to be sensitive, Gootkin writes, in our choice of words and sensitive to the needs for potential readers.
If your writing is not "user friendly" you will alienate the vast majority of your potential readers, either because they can’t understand what you need them to or because they are too annoyed by your arrogance to bother to try.
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This article is featured in today's (July 11) online paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs -- available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

For more advice on this topic, check out Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. There you can learn how to improve your writing skills by using plain-English techniques:

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