Updated: Nov 10, 2020
Enough with delightful Dickensian words like ‘ardent’, ‘jog trotty’ or ‘marplot’, and into the millennial age where speed, clarity and succinctness are key to general expression. Rather than using long words and business jargon as a way to impress employers, plain English, with a little judicious and unpretentious wit has become the way forward.
Interestingly, the concept of ‘Plain English’ started in the 1940’s in the civil service as a way of making documents more user-friendly. The plain language campaign took up the idea in the 1970’s after campaigning about official documents that couldn’t be understood by normal people. Since then, the idea has come into all forms of writing.
Bill Wheeler says: 'Good writing is clear thinking made visible.'
Many people outside of the public sector sway away from the phrase ‘Plain English’ but the best writers in all fields use it, knowingly or not. Plain language is not so much about banning long words or phrases or throwing out your grammar book. Rather, it is about selecting words based on their appropriateness and relevancy. In the same way a road has certain signposts and a doctor selects would select a scalpel over a retractor, words function in the same way. Each word needs be used with purpose and conviction.
So the next time you speak or write, think to yourself first what are you trying to say? Think plainly, and speak plainly. Then ask yourself, is it clear? is it appropriate? Is it relevant? Is it meaningful?
If the answer is no to any of the above, keep searching for the word before you speak or write. For when you write or speak, you can't un-write or un-speak it, and what is communication if it is not to communicate precisely and ultimately make your point, loud and clear.
Finally, if you find yourself opting for those convoluted words, this resource should offer you simpler and more appropriate replacements: