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Want to improve your communication? Try plain English

Plain English 'can improve your communication'

September 3, 2015

Writing in plain English is becoming a forgotten art in the corporate world.

Sandra Barber, Communications Manager at Staffordshire Housing Group, believes “pompous, wordy communications” – often seen in both internal and external communication – is a huge turn-off for an audience.

So what terms spring to mind?

Sandra highlights several regular offenders – ‘notwithstanding’, ‘perusal’ and ‘utilise’ – as well as the common turn of phrase ‘in the event of’ rather than simply using ‘if’.

She told website insidehousing.co.uk: “Aside from making us sound like we were trapped in 1931, these words – usually drowning in unpunctuated 60 word sentences – made a lot of what we sent out unintelligible.

“If customers get information from us they don’t understand it makes them feel disempowered and humiliated.

“Then they don’t read it, or they struggle through it and are none the wiser, which means we’ve failed both them and our business.”

Determined to stamp out 60-word sentences and clunky corporate speak, Staffordshire Housing Group makes a determined effort to stress the importance of using plain English as soon as a person joins the organisation.

New employees are given a 40-minute ‘plain English training session’ as part of their onboarding programme. The session is designed to reveal the “simple things they can do to make their written communications more customer-friendly”.

The organisation is not alone in adopting a proactive approach in this area.

Last year we reported how Holiday Inn Express had declared war on jargon to make life easier for customers.

Sandra added: “Many sources state that the UK has an average reading age of 9, and the National Literacy Trust tells us that 16 per cent of adults in Britain are considered to be functionally illiterate.

“Using plain English for these readers is an obvious help, but if we only use it for people who fall into these categories we perpetuate the myth that plain English is ‘dumbing down’.

“A letter in plain English is as appropriate for a professor of astrophysics as it is for you, me and the woman in Flat 9.

“Who doesn’t want to receive communications that get to the point, stick to the point and are easy to understand?”

To read the full article, visit insidehousing.co.uk here….