Sometimes the very sound of a word gives away its meaning. ‘Plain’ is one such word.
Say the word out loud and you realise that it’s very dull, monosyllabic and altogether uninspiring.
So the term Plain English suggests very simple language that offers little colour, inspiration or detail.
In a way, this is true. The idea of Plain English is to strip back any unnecessary words and convoluted meaning and to get back to simple language that everyone can understand.
Plain English has its critics. Many argue that the movement towards Plain English strips our language of all subtlety and nuances. It also patronises readers by reducing meaning to really simple concepts and ideas. Losing the precision of language and losing the ability to explain complex and complicated concepts and ideas are blamed on the growing popularity of Plain English.
We do not agree.
The art of writing is to explain ideas, concepts and information in a way that readers can understand. It’s there to give clarity and certainty. If it fails to do this it’s failing in its job.
Of course some issues are complex and demand a lot of detail. And those who enjoy or demand that detail sometimes argue that Plain English sacrifices their needs, just to make things easier for others.
Yet this misunderstands the point. Plain English does not reduce detail or dumb-down text in any way. It simply ensures that readers can understand what’s been written.
Any level of detail and complexity can be maintained if a text has had a full Plain English treatment. The chances are it will also be shorter and quicker to read. This is because unnecessary words and clauses can be stripped out, letting the real meaning shine through.
Plain English is not to be sniffed at and looked down upon. It’s using language as it should be used … keeping things plain and simple for everyone’s use and enjoyment.
For details about our Plain English editing service click here or contact Adam Woolf on 01788 335284