My Favorite 15 Plain English Writing Tips

My Favorite 15 Plain English Writing Tips

I try my best to follow the rules of plain English writing because it helps me write more clearly and concisely when I write business documents or how-to articles. In studying plain English writing styles, I have compiled my favorite tips. Here they are (in no particular order):

1. Never expect the reader to know everything about your topic. Carefully and thoughtfully explain concepts that might be tricky to understand.

2. Use colorful descriptive words and action verbs. Avoid redundant, weak words like "good," "awesome," "pretty," or "nice." Instead, be more descriptive or specific.

3. Regularly change your choice of words and use equivalent words whenever practical.

4. Avoid threadbare phrases and cliches like the plague. Use detailed adjectives and descriptive words to make your thoughts more concrete.

5. Break up blocks of quotes. Rather, blend them neatly into your writing style, using the right wording.

6. Outline your thoughts on paper. Use subheadings to organize your thoughts. Tie together similar thoughts to help you transition from one thought to the next.

7. Use different sentence lengths. Use a blend of short and long sentences to appeal to the  eye.

8. Credit all quotes. Always identify and record your sources.

9. Specify the person or object. (If you write "it," you must ensure your readers know the person or object that "it" refers to.)

10. Know singular and plural forms. A company, business, organization or entity is not plural, but singular.

Wrong: The company had their employees work overtime.
Right: The company had its employees work overtime.

11. Write for your readers, not for your ego. Use common words that your readers know and understand.

12. Write in a vibrant, simple-to-read format.

13. Use passive voice sparingly, and favor the active voice to sound more clear and concise.

Poor: "Breakfast was prepared by Martha the next morning."
Better: "Martha prepared breakfast the next morning."

14. Write in a casual but professionalism tone and adopt a conversational writing style.

15. Use the same pattern of words to indicate that two or more concepts have equal importance.

Poor: Sam enjoys swimming, running, and he likes to play basketball.
Better: Sam enjoys swimming, running, and playing basketball.

If you want to learn more about plain English writing, I invite you to visit my Hub, Plain English Writing Rules or download a free ebook on plain English writing.

I welcome your comments, tips, or corrections. Use the comment form below.

Brian Scott