Who Needs Plain English?
Just about anyone who writes. Research has shown:
- Managers claim that 80 percent of their employees lack good writing skills.
- Employees claim managers are poor writers, set bad examples and offer little guidance to improve their documents.
- Whole professions, lawyers, government officials, social scientists, computer technicians have reputations for bad writing and poor communication.
- But when people were asked if they had good writing and communications skills, everyone claimed they did.
- If you use a word processor, StyleWriter offers you better quality documents.
StyleWriter is for anyone who writes:
- Federal, state, and local government administrators and legislators, who must make sure that directives, memoranda, codes, statutes, and other communications with the public are clear and concise.
- Advertisers for better ads, leaflets and press releases.
- Editors who want to use software to develop a house style.
- Journalists to check and polish their writing style.
- Judges for legal briefs to be just that - brief.
- Lawyers trying to break centuries of bad writing habits.
- Scientists who want to write clearly about complex issues.
- Social Scientists who want to sound human.
- Students wanting to get A-Grade essays.
- Technical Authors for shorter, readable documentation.
- You, if you want to learn the secrets of clear, direct language.
Why doesn’t everyone write in plain English?
Most organizations and individuals recognize customer letters, brochures, e-mails, management reports should be clear and concise but most documents fail any basic, plain English test. Why?
The traditional response has been for individuals and employees to go on business writing courses and expect one day’s tuition to transform the way they think and write. In tests, people going on traditional business writing courses often showed little improvement in writing style. Statistics on writing style show there is typically only a 10 percent improvement one week after the course, and a month later most participants fell back to their old habits.
There are many reasons for this failure. Here are the important ones:
- The culture of business and government encourages poor writing. Most people’s writing style comes from the documents they see around them. So unless you train everyone in effective writing, improving writing standards is difficult.
- Most people think they do write clearly, although at least 80 percent of documents in organizations are badly written and full of poor style faults. It always comes as a shock when people see how much clearer documents can become with strong editing.
- Managers often believe the problem is never with their writing style, but with the style of their staff. Managers happily send their staff to writing courses. But after the course, the managers continue to redraft the new, clearer style back into management-speak. The unspoken message to the person trying to write clearly is: “Don’t write clearly, write as I do.”
- Most writers are so close to their jargon and style they cannot see their writing faults. They have no idea why others find their documents difficult to read and understand.
- Many people believe the long-winded, complex style of business and government is the expected and agreed style. Many employees look at existing documents and copy the style. This means people who normally speak clearly and write well, quickly pick up the stilted style of their colleagues.
- Many people learned to write at university and college where length and an impressive vocabulary seemed to be a virtue. Yet in the workplace, everyone wants short, clear documents to communicate quickly and efficiently.
- Only one person in 50 attends training in effective writing. Organizing and running courses is time-consuming and expensive. If you use outside consultants to run them, they can cost up to $1,500 for ten people. Plain language software is much more economical.
- There’s no backup to writing training. Most people only remember one-third of the training ideas and put even fewer into practice. Plain English editing software means writers constantly learn ways to improve their style.
So how do I guarantee that I don’t fall back into bad writing habits?
To guarantee everyone in an organization writes clearly, you need to change the communication culture, train staff and give them the tools to back up the training. This has proved impossible without good writing software.
In the same way running a spelling checker on your word processor guarantees everyone writes without typing and spelling mistakes, plain English writing software like StyleWriter can guarantee the benefits of clear writing.
Next: How is Government using StyleWriter and Plain English?