A lot of organisations are put off plain language because of the amount of effort it seems to require. The rounds of internal sign-off, the struggle against colleagues who aren’t aboard the plain language train need real perseverance. It’s easy to give out negative advice — you mustn’t do this, you mustn’t do that , I’ve written before about the things you need to forget to write plain language, however there are potentially massive benefits too.
To celebrate Plain English day, here are some reasons to keep your language plain and simple.
When people understand what you’re saying, they’re more inclined to trust you. Or rather, I should say that when people cannot understand what you’re saying without considerable effort, they’re less inclined to trust you. Long-winded language can look like a deliberate attempt to keep the facts from the people who need them.
- Saving money
If you want your customers to do something, it’s probably in your interest that the people you want to follow them make fewer mistakes. The more mistakes they make, the more costly it is for you — your administration costs rise, your call centre has to take more calls. One knock-on affect might be that the people with genuinely complicated issues suffer from longer response times as your business or service spends more time dealing with basic enquiries. Consistently using plain language helps reduce confusion.
- Greater efficiency
When you apply plain language to your processes and procedures you can see positive benefits too — it’s not just about leaflets and letters. Do people persistently fall at one particular hurdle in a form you need them to fill in? Do your customers get so far in a transaction with you, then go elsewhere before you get a chance to make a sale? The way you use language could be a significant barrier to keeping that customer. Maybe you’ve used some jargon that’s part of your internal way of working — does your customer need to see that? Or would they be better off seeing things in terms that are relevant to them? Smooth the way for them with plain language.
Keeping your audience in mind is the most important thing. Plain language at a science conference is different from plain language for a local council, but it’s always worthwhile making sure your message is tailored to the people who will want to hear it.