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Plain English

Your Reader and Purpose


Clear, Effective Paragraphs

Clear, Simple Sentences

Suitable Words

Enticing Design

Testing for Clarity

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Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide


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How to write clearly to meet the needs of your readers--and your needs too!

Plain English is an approach to writing that concentrates on the needs of your readers. This clear writing approach is often called plain language because of its international value and use in other languages. It is ideal for people who write to and for clients, customers, employees, organization members, ratepayers, students, equipment and software users, and taxpayers. It's especially useful for nonfiction but can also aid novels and short stories. It helps us write for people who read at all levels of time, interest, education and literacy. It also benefits readers with limited English proficiency or learning disabilities.

Plain English principles can help you write clearly and concisely. Plain English matches the needs of your readers with your needs as a writer, leading to effective, efficient communication. It is effective because your readers can understand your message. It is efficient because your readers can understand your message the first time they read it. That reader focus--combined with logical organization, clear writing, and inviting appearance--is key to creating usable, informative documents for your organization.

The basics of clear, concise writing apply to all types of documents. Following plain English principles will improve the readability of letters and memos, reports and newsletters, brochures and presentations, instruction manuals and legal documents, and most other materials. The principles also apply directly to writing news releases and webpages, and they will aid in translating English documents into other languages.

Check out the pages below to learn how to improve your writing skills by using plain English techniques:

Also see Garbl's Concise Writing Guide: Use this guide to help make your documents easier to read and understand. It provides concise alternatives to overstated, pompous words; wordy, bureaucratic phrases; and redundant phrases.

Copyright 2020. Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide maintained by Gary B. Larson of Port Townsend, Washington, garbltoo@gmail.com. Please understand that if I respond to your questions about plain English, I may not respond quickly enough to meet your deadline. (If you're wondering, I've never been a cartoonist.)

This page updated Jan. 23, 2020. I try to make sure all the hyperlinks on this website are up-to-date, but if you find a broken link, please let me know. Also, whatever their acclaim and position, all writers need editors. I don't have one for Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide, so if you spot a typo, unclear message, or possible error, please tell me.

Except for selected books on the Writing Bookshelf, website listings do not signify endorsements of fee-based services, products or programs.

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