The Pillars of Plain Language

by HeatherGeo

Now that we know the grammar basics lets focus on putting it all together. Here are three tips to get started. if you haven’t read my grammar basics posts, I invite you to scroll through and pick up some great tips!

Use headlines – Insert headline for each new topic and use sub headlines to keep your reader engaged and moving through the document.

 Write short paragraphs – If a reader approaches a long paragraph they may just tune out. Remember, you are writing for scanners. You can write long copy, but keep your paragraphs short.

Shorter paragraphs are easier to read and help the reader understand the text. Typically your paragraphs should be between three to eight sentences and max out at around 150 words.

Also, a one-sentence paragraph is fine.

 Use pronouns to speak directly to the readers – Pronouns engage your readers so you can speak to them directly. Using the word “you” brings the reader into your text.

For example:

You must provide copies of your tax returns. vs. Send copies of tax returns.

You must bring a copy of your marriage license when renewing your drivers license. vs. Bring copy of marriage license to renew drivers license.

If you are working with a longer document or contract always define “you” at the beginning. For instance:

“This document tells you, the home buyer, how to apply for a mortgage.”



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