I remember reading a novel by a world-famous,award-winning novelist and having to reach for the dictionary every third sentence to understand what he was talking about.
After 60 or 70 pages, I put the book down and never returned to it because I thought this guy isn’t telling a story, he’s showing off!
Whether you are an author, copywriter or you are just writing for your business everyday, simple copy is a must.
The Style Manual for authors, editors and printers, Sixth Edition published by the Australian government makes several points on plain English that are still relevant today.
‘Some plain English guidelines for language choice
• Use familiar, everyday words that readers will understand.
• Be precise, using enough words to achieve clarity but avoiding unnecessary words that can distract from the main points.
• Vary sentence length, but keep to an average of twenty-two words.
• Prefer the active voice rather than the passive wherever relevant.
• Engage the audience by using personal pronouns such as ‘we’ and ‘you’ except in formal contexts.
• Use verbs in preference to constructions based on nouns derived from verbs (‘explain’ rather than ‘provide an explanation’; ‘apply’ rather than ‘make an application.).
• Break up dense strings of nouns or nouns and modifiers (such as ‘the outline development plan land package release conditions’).
• Avoid euphemisms, clichés, and overused ‘trendy’ words or phrases.
• Prefer simple sentence frameworks, avoiding convoluted constructions such as double negatives (‘not unlikely’, for example).’
So if you are a copywriter or just have to write as part of your everyday business the message is clear; keep it simple and your message will be heard.