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Friday, October 19, 2012

Gobbledygook, jargon, and plain language « Rhonda Bracey, CyberText Newsletter

In her article, Australian blogger Bracey provides useful advice on writing clearly to meet the needs of readers. She begins with her "Bottom line" suggestions:
  • Use plain language where possible so the reader doesn't have to try to figure out what you mean.
  • Consider how you would explain the concept to your parents, children, grandparents, those who don’t work in the industry etc. – and then use that language in your writing. Plain, simple, and easily understood.
  • Every time someone has to stop and think while reading your document, the organisation incurs a cost – time, lost productivity, rework etc.
  • Every misinterpretation could put a life at risk.
She goes on to comment on the difficulty of reading an document she's reviewed, pulling example phrases from the document.

Bracey writes:
For each example listed above, I had to stop and think, try to figure out (guess!) what the author meant, consult the dictionary, or do all these actions. Each hesitation was a distraction that took my focus away from my objective of reading and understanding the content. ...
Her concluding advice:
So, after you write a sentence/paragraph/section/document, read it through before finalising it to make sure that all the words/phrases you use will be understood by your target audience. If in doubt, think about how you’d explain it to someone outside the industry and use those words instead. Or get someone else to read it and alert you to anything they can’t understand or that they hesitate over.
This article is featured today (Oct. 19) in Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs--available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.  For more advice on plain language, visit Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide.

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