Rules for Writing Plain English

From How You Can Write Plain Language by Just Following These 39 Steps
By William D. Lutz, author of Doublespeak Defined and The New Doublespeak

 

The Writing Process

1. Know your reader, and write with your reader’s viewpoint in mind.

2. Organize your text: in a logical sequence, with informative headings, and with a table of contents for long documents

3. Use short sentences

4. Say only what you have to say, avoiding too many messages in a single sentence, and omitting surplus words.

5. Keep equivalent items parallel.

6. Avoid unnecessary formality.

7. Give an overview of the main idea of the text.

8. List conditions separately.

9. Arrange your words with care.

10. Punctuate carefully.

11. Use an average of 25 words per sentence.

12. Put most of your messages at the subject-predicate position.

13. For variety or emphasis, invert your sentences.

14. Use the art of subordination to smooth out choppiness.

15. Avoid disrupting your sentences with thought-stopping gaps.

16. Tabulate particularly complex information.

17. Get rid of compound prepositions.

18. Rewrite the adjective, adverb, and noun clauses to other structures satisfying the same functions.

19. Use phrases to smooth out the choppy noun-noun modifier.

20. Be fair and nonsexist, but don’t be stupid.

 

Usage

21. Prefer the active voice.

22. Use simple, “everyday” words.

23. Use words consistently.

24. Use familiar, concrete words.

25. Avoid multiple negatives.

26. Avoid nouns created from verbs.

27. Use action verbs; avoid the verb “to be.”

28. Use personal pronouns.

29. Avoid noun strings.

30. Avoid deleting words such as “which is,” “who was,” “that are,” etc. – that link a subordinate clause.

31. Avoid language quirks.

 

Presentation of Material

32. Make the document attractive and designed for easy reading.

33. Use white space in margins and between sections.

34. Use ragged right margins.

35. Do not use all caps.

36. Use highlighting techniques, but don’t overuse them.

37. Use 8 to 10 point type for text.

38. Avoid lines of type that are too long or too short.

39. Avoid strings of symbols.

 

Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Well-Turned Phrases

Regarding apathy, I have no opinion.

Remember you’re unique, just like everybody else.

Give me ambiguity or give me something else.

Indecision is the key to flexibility.

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

Every morning is the dawn of a new error.

If all is not lost, where is it?

Ignorance is no excuse. It’s the real thing.

I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific.

I plead contemporary insanity.

Committee: a body that keeps minutes and wastes hours.

Yawn: an honest opinion openly expressed.

Education is what you have left after you’ve lost all your notes.

Procrastinate now.

Deja Moo: The feeling that you’ve heard this bull before.

Any philosophy that can fit into a nutshell belongs there.

No matter where you go, there you are.

Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.

Meandering to a different drummer.

Hermits unite!

Dyslexics Untie!

Eschew obfuscation.

Egotist: someone who is usually me-deep in conversation.

A PBS mind in an MTV world.

Ambivalent? Well, yes and no.

Entrophy isn’t what it used to be.

She had a body like a burlap bag full of bobcats.

Compost happens.

Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.

That was Zen. This is Tao.

 

Chris George, providing reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Text Message Abbreviations

There are few who will argue against the fact that modern language has degenerated with the advance of on-line communications – particularly our use of strings of abbreviations when we send text messages. For your reference to this new world of abbreviations, we have compiled some of the most commonly used:

AFK – away from the keyboard
ASL? – Age? Sex? Location?
B4 – before
BAK – back at the keyboard
BBL – be back later
BCNU – be seeing you
BRB – be right back
BTW – by the way
FAQs – frequently asked questions
IMHO – in my humble opinion
L8R – later
LOL – laughs out loud
MOF? – male or female?
NM – never mind
N/M – not much
NP – no problem
OMG – oh may god!
ROFL – rolling on the floor laughing
TTFN – ta ta for now
UR – your or you’re
W/ – with

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Chris George, providing reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? 613-983-0801 @CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Some Scientific Equations You May Not Be Familiar With

Ratio of an igloo’s circumference to its diameter = Eskimo Pi

 

2000 pounds of Chinese soup = Won ton

 

1 millionth of a mouthwash = 1 microscope

 

Time between slipping on a peel and smacking the pavement = 1 bananosecon

 

Weight an evangelist carries with God = 1 billigram

 

Time it takes to sail 220 yards at 1 nautical mile per hour = Knotfurlong

 

16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone = 1 Rod Sterling

 

Half of a large intestine = 1 semicolon

 

1,000,000 aches = 1 megahurtz

 

Basic unit of laryngitis = 1 hoarsepower

 

Shortest distance between two jokes = A straight line

 

453.6 graham crackers = 1 pound cake

 

1 million-million microphones = 1 megaphone

 

2 million bicycles = 2 megacycles

 

365.25 days = 1 unicycle

 

2000 mockingbirds = 2 kilomockingbirds

 

52 cards = 1 decacards

 

1 kilogram of falling figs = 1 FigNewton

 

1000 milliliters of wet socks = 1 literhosen

 

1 millionth of a fish = 1 microfiche

 

1 trillion pins = 1 terrapin

 

10 rations = 1 decoration

 

100 rations = 1 C-ration

 

2 monograms = 1 diagram

 

4 nickels = 2 paradigmne

 

2.4 statute miles of intravenous surgical tubing at Yale University Hospital = 1 IV League

 

Chris George, providing reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? 613-983-0801 @CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

The Five Oldest Words

Of all languages, throughout the ages, around the globe, there are five words that are today recognized as “the oldest.” University of Reading evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel studies have concluded the oldest words as:

I
Who
Two
Three
Five

These words are the most often used in daily speech – their forms or sounds date back over 10,000 years. Some of the other oldest words in mankind’s communicative history are:

We
Thou
Name
Tongue
What
How
Where
Four

This extraordinary work was first reported in a 2009 issue of National Geographic, but detailed reports about Professor Pagel’s study are found in U.K. media: BBC News and The Telegraph.

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Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a trusted executive assistant, a communications can-do guy, or a go-to-scribe? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.