Plain Language for Better Written Communication

written communication skillsby Lesley Nevills

Have you ever had to read a message several times just to understand it? We’ve all been on the receiving end of emails like that, and our impulse is to hit delete. But what if that email includes information you need, or it comes from someone you can’t ignore?

Many writers fall into the trap of writing in a vague and bureaucratic style because they think it makes them sound more formal or professional, but it confuses and challenges the reader. So, if you don’t want your readers to hit delete, use a modern written communication style that engages your reader with a friendly, conversational tone. To be effective, let your human voice come through.

Who would you prefer to work with – Writer A or Writer B?

Writer A

A prompt response to the inquiry below would be appreciated as it is required to update bank records.

Writer B

Please email me your new direct-deposit information by June 14, so I can ensure you receive this month’s pay in your new bank account.

The second example, right? Here are four strategies Writer B uses to write with a positive, professional tone and plain language.

1. Use reader-centric language

Think about who you are writing to and use language your reader understands. Stay away from

  • unnecessarily complex language
  • buzzwords
  • clichés

2. Use simple language

Helpful writers choose simple words and avoid complex language. Here are some examples:

Avoid:  Use: 
Accompany  Go with 
Affirmative  Yes 
Conceptualize  Think 

3. Leave out buzzwords

Buzzwords are common in business and industry but add little to a sentence’s meaning. Readers often interpret these words as a writer trying to impress.


  • interface
  • logistical
  • synergize

4. Avoid clichés and legal language

Some clichés and legalese can sound cold and uncaring. If you want to create a warm, engaging tone, avoid using them. Besides, readers tend to skip over clichés. They’ve seen them too many times.

Most of us would never use these expressions in conversation; replace that cold, bureaucratic, repetitive language with conversational language.

Instead of:
At your earliest convenience

If you could provide your feedback by tomorrow, that would be helpful

Do you have any plain language writing tips to add?

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