Most people would agree good writing delivers messages in a clear, readable way. But when your content is technically or conceptually complex, how do you strike the right balance between simplicity and accuracy? In our experience, there are a few helpful guidelines to keep in mind:
Think before you write.
Knowing exactly the points you need to make to convince readers of your argument helps you write economically and directly, with less clutter and jargon. Whether you prepare a detailed outline or scribble down a bullet-point skeleton, knowing where you want to go will keep your story focused.
Clarity doesn’t mean “dumbing down”.
The point of plain language is to bring out your meaning, not strip away substance. Whoever your readers are, put ideas in context and spell out implications so they understand what you want them to think and why. It’s about explaining your argument, not compromising your subject matter. A great example is Stephen Hawkings’ book, A Brief History of Time, which presented hugely complex concepts in 224 succinct pages and resonated both with casual readers and physicists alike.
Focus every paragraph on one key point.
Putting each idea on its own tells readers what you want them to take away and gives you the space to explain it as fully as it needs.
Write with energy.
Using active voice — subject-verb-object construction — is one of the best ways to keep your writing plain and clear. Remember the old example from school: “She threw the ball” not “The ball was thrown”. If you have a plain language writing tip — or a monstrous example of “un-plain” writing — we’d love to hear.