Plain language editing is the process of making information readable, accessible and actionable by the readers. Plain language editors use clear writing guidelines and user-friendly design criteria to ensure the message really connects with the audience. But sometimes it is challenging to know where to start a plain language edit. Here are some ideas on how to focus on plain language.
Substantive Editing: Organize for the reader
Reduces review time by 40-60%* --Plain language writing and editing leads to less review time. Organizing for easy reading plays a big role.
Decreases production time by 50%*—Focus on conciseness. Train everyone contributing on how to write and edit for less volume. Use a plain language checklist.
Show others how to improve their sentence structure. Most likely they’ve been taught how to write lengthy, descriptive sentence. Explain the benefits of active voice.
Proofreading: Choose the best words
Reduces word count by 40%*--focus on how to get rid of jargon, empty phrases, passive voice, repetition.
You are aiming to create a message that audiences can easily understand, efficiently navigate and effectively act on. So, you need to speak their language, clearly. At the proofreading stage, check for:
Set goals and track progress: Keep data
Increases customer satisfaction by 50%*—research shows clear communications means happy clients
As you go through the editing process, remember to get feedback from real readers, especially at the beginning and end. Track the feedback data for future projects. Save your before and after examples. Plain language is an investment, make sure you get a great return.
Integrating plain language editing guidelines into the style guide you already use is the easiest way to achieve success. The proof is in this plain language process.
Plain Language Association International: PLAIN.org
US Government Plain Language site: www.plainlanguage.gov
*Bold points are from PLAIN President Neil James, Plain English Foundation, Australia, PLAIN 2017 Conference presentation.
Kate Harrison Whiteside has over 25 years experience in plain language, writing/editing, training and consulting.