Make Your Point Succinctly
Not only must the writer make language choices to suit their
purpose, they must make sure these choices are appropriate for the
reader. The Plain English Campaign (1993: 25) believe that to do
this effectively, the writer should use the simplest words that make
the point succinctly.
(1995:19) elaborates on this point and suggests that the
communicative value of sentences which overcomplicate
straightforward ideas is lost because they are designed to ‘impress
rather than inform’.
At present the recessionary cycle is aggravating volumes through
your modern manufacturing and order processing environment which
provide restricted opportunities for cost reduction through labour
adjustments and will remain a key issue
(1995) determines that, while centuries ago, people were impressed
with flamboyant language, a modern reader would abhor the task of
deciphering the message.
version more in keeping with The Plain English Campaign’s advice
Output and orders have fallen because of the recession but there is
little scope for reducing the workforce (Cutts 1995:
sometimes necessary to be even more direct. The Campaign therefore
encourages the use of imperatives, especially in the case of written
instructions. If a writer uses the imperative, they are able to
communicate the action at an early point and keep the message
simple. For example, ‘Stand in boiling water for ten minutes, then
open’ (Cutts 1995: 132).
Imperatives can also be used to address someone directly, for
example, ‘brush your teeth’ (The Plain English Campaign
2008). However, the commanding nature of such instructions may
discourage a writer from using them. The Campaign advises that the
bossy element of imperatives can be softened by prefixing ‘please’.
For example, ‘please send it to me’ (The Plain English Campaign
2008). The problem with the advice to use ‘please’ is that, in some
instances, it may make a direct order sound like a request. This
may not be suitable in safety critical areas. For example, ‘Please
do not swim in the lake’ does not have the same implications of
danger as ‘Do not swim in the lake’.
can also be made more direct by avoiding the use of nominalisations
(The Plain English Campaign 2008). For example, ‘The ban on smoking
in public places in 2007 has led to a fall in hospital admissions
for smoking-related diseases’
(Newcastle University 2009) can be improved in accordance with the
campaign’s advice. In which case, it could read ‘The
government banned smoking in public places in 2007. Since then,
fewer people have been admitted to hospital for smoking-related
diseases’ (Newcastle University 2009).
of the verb gives the impression of action, which is likely to
appease a reader who is waiting for an outcome. The nominalisation
simply names the action and this can weigh the sentence down with a
sense of inactivity. However, Newcastle University’s Writing
Development Centre (2009) highlights that nominalisations are
appropriate in conventional academic writing ‘because they convey an
objective, impersonal tone’.
(1995: 25) suggests that the reason for excessive writing is the
writer’s fear of being definite. A definite statement makes it
difficult for the writer to later deny or escape from a certain
point or promise. However, plain English does allow for hesitation
and vagueness. For example, words can be used such as ‘may’,
‘might’ or ‘could’.