Plain Language Part 1

Last week I conducted a workshop about Plain Language, a federal initiative that directs government employees to write simply and clearly. Although local agencies aren’t covered by the Plain Writing Act of 2010, it makes sense for government documents to be written in everyday English. (You can find resources for better business writing here.)

Or so you would think. The fact is that in many businesses, archaic jargon and tangled syntax are the order of the day. It’s a strange phenomenon. I’ve never met anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to use pompous, stuffy language: “The fluid supply in my writing implement is exhausted” rather than “My pen is out of ink.” When I chat with the participants at a writing workshop, they’re charming and natural. But sit them down to write, and…

Today’s post is the first of four that will dig into our beliefs about language. Where do our ideas about word choice, style, and other writing issues come from – and do we need to re-evaluate them? If you’re unfamiliar with the history of the English language, you may be surprised. Stay tuned!

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