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.
- State purpose in opening. Put the most important (for your reader) information first.
- Use clear, concise, consistent headings to organize the content.
- Remove, reorganize and revise sentences, paragraphs and sections for optimum readability
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.
- Keep sentences short (20 – 25 words).
- Write using first person. Instead of ‘the organization’ or ‘the administration’, use ‘we’, ‘I’.
- Use active voice (who does what) for a clearer sentence structure.
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:
- Repetition (keep a synonyms list handy), empty phrases (in order to), and redundancies.
- Acronyms, abbreviations, technical terms that can confuse and lose the readers. If you need to, create a glossary to help readers understand.
- Weak words. Choose the best words for your audience. A style sheet is recommended.
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.