We want to bring our audience along on our mission, not impress them with our intelligence.
This three step approach to writing in Plain English will help to achieve your business communication goals.
1. Write drunk, edit sober
The first step is just to get something on paper (OK. It’s 2016. Screen.) Once you have a base of content to work from, you can start to add a structure and tidy up.
Helpful tip – add subheadings to each of your paragraphs that sum up the ‘point’. You can delete these once you’re done, but in the editing process they will force you to make better decisions about how you group and order information.
Now you have a first draft. I like to do something else at this point – work on a different project, or catch up on email or phone-calls. The key is to create some mental distance between you and your work, so that you can approach Step 2 with a fresh eye.
2. Seek and destroy
This is my favourite bit. Work through your writing from top to bottom and be absolutely ruthless in the following:
- Change jargon to everyday words
- Remove words and sentences that distract from your main point.
- Eliminate useless fillers that dilute your message. High up on my hit list are: very, really, just, also. These are feeble creatures with no place in good business writing. Eliminate.
- Shorten long sentences. There are many rules of thumb floating around (15, 20, 25 words). My rule? As long as it needs to be, and no longer. Make one point per sentence.