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Monday, February 11, 2013

What is plain language? (Part One: Elements of the text) | Kim Sydow Campbell, Pros Write

This article is featured today, Feb. 11, in my online daily paper, Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs. The author's follow-up article is also featured today in my Plain English paper: What is plain language? (Part Two: Audience outcomes).

In the first article, Campbell writes:
Perhaps the most obvious way to define plain language is to focus on the words a writer chooses. For instance, a common proscription from those interested in better workplace writing is for writers to avoid jargon. Jargon is a word with a highly specialized or technical meaning.
With links to related videos, she continues by describing other aspects of plain language writing. They include:
  • conciseness
  • active vs. passive voice
  • word choice
  • parallel structure
  • tone
  • placement of the bottom line 
  • paragraph unity
  • cohesion
  • transitions
  • format.
Campbell's second article covers equally important considerations for following plain-language principles. She writes:
[A] document is successful only when it fulfills the writer’s purpose for the document’s readers. There’s no such thing as a successful document considered in isolation.
And then she discusses the desired outcomes for readers:
  • comprehension
  • usability
  • efficiency
  • credibility
  • selection.
She concludes (emphasis added):
I understand plain language as the outcome of an audience’s interaction with a text, and the outcome includes but is not limited to comprehension. You may have noticed that I have said next to nothing about the third point of the rhetorical triangle. That means you can expect Part Three to address document writers and their purposes for writing.
Update: Here's my blog post on Campbell's fourth and final article in this series. It has links to her three other articles. 


My Plain English paper is available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

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