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Plain language: Editor's Notes #242
August 31, 2017
Hello,

To write well, express yourself like common people, but think like a wise man.
Or, think as wise men do, but speak as the common people do.

—Aristotle


In this issue:

1. In plain language
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1. In plain language
The plain language movement dates back at least to Aristotle as you can see from the quote that opens this issue of Editor’s Notes. From the mid-twentieth century onward, plain language became a focus of many writers world-wide in a wide range of languages. Some governments have adopted the practice of writing plain language throughout their publications.

Plain language is easy to read, easy to understand, and easy for the reader to use. Some people mistakenly believe that those easy aspects mean that plain language is a way to dumb down information. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Look again at what Aristotle told writers to do: think. And not simply to think, but to think as the wise think. I believe that we can truly write plain language only when we deeply understand our topic, what the reader needs to know, and how to best share that information with the reader.

Once a writer thinks, thinks as the wise do, specific techniques flow.

First comes the outline, an organizing principle that takes the reader through logical steps. Then the outline is fleshed out using everyday language in active voice and short sentences.

Plain language is simple. It is easy to read. It is, however, not necessarily easy to write.

Check your own writing for evidence of plain language. Correct any instance where you violate the principles of plan language. When you are ready, share your work with an editor. Editors like me love to help you make your message as plain as possible so your deep thinking comes across clearly to your audience.

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2.Tickled my funnybone
If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

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3. Interesting Web site
PLAIN stands for Plain Language Association International
http://plainlanguagenetwork.org/plain-language/what-is-plain-language/

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4. Writing prompt
Here is a sentence written about plain language in US government documents. "The writing of documents in the standard vernacular English language will bolster and increase the accountability of government within America and will continue to more effectively save time and money in this country." Rewrite this in plain language using the guidelines from this issue. (Use the Interesting Web site link as well as what I’ve written.) I’d love to see your results.

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