Let’s talk about clear and simple language

Clear and simple language

Lately I’ve been working with a new client. 

It’s a big name with an international team and the company language is English. This is great for me as a native English speaker. 

But it has highlighted the importance of clear and simple language. Especially when working with non-native speakers or communicating with a global audience.

So let’s delve a little deeper into why clear and simple language matters, and how we can use it.

Simple doesn’t mean plain

Using clear and simple language might sound boring but it’s actually the opposite.

It’s inclusive, welcoming and creative. It allows different people to get on the same page and it forces writers to be more considerate with the words they choose.

But why is this even important?

Because the world is no longer a big place. Globalisation happened and our lives and countries are much more interlinked than we realise.

So if our writing is targeting an audience in a certain location, we need to make sure as many people as possible can understand it. Just because someone lives in the UK (for example), it doesn’t mean they are from there. Or that they are fluent in the local language.

There will always be a place for dialect and regional nuance, but using clear and simple language will (more often than not) reach the most people.

Switching to clear and simple

Now you know the theory, here’s how to apply it to your work.

The easiest way to transform a piece of writing is to swap complex or formal words for simpler alternatives.

Like this:

  • utilise 👉 use
  • additional 👉 extra
  • advise 👉 tell
  • beneficial 👉 helpful
  • following 👉 after
  • otherwise 👉 or
  • illustrate 👉 show

Next, check the text for slang/regional words or unnecessary jargon.

For example, think about the phrases “making a brew” (a cup of tea) or “eating a bacon butty” (bacon sandwich).

Both of these could work well for a UK-specific brand with a mostly British audience. But if the target market is more global, it could get lost in translation. Or even alienate the people that wouldn’t use those phrases.

Then check the copy for long sentences. Shorter is usually better when using the clear and simple approach.

And finally, have a bit of fun with it. Clear and simple doesn’t mean any trace of personality has to be crossed out with a red pen. 

We’re still writing for people, after all.

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