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Spot the Difference
If you don’t believe the difference plain language can make, take a look at this example from a Public Health Service brochure. The Department of Health and Human Services revised a six-page article on Losing Weight Safely to create a single brochure with a message that’s much easier to follow.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a half-hour or more of moderate physical activity on most days, preferably every day. The activity can include brisk walking, calisthenics, home care, gardening, moderate sports exercise, and dancing.
Do at least 30 minutes of exercise, like brisk walking, most days of the week.
By tweaking the statement above, the writer has successfully been able to identify the point he is trying to make by putting the most important point at the beginning, using common easily understood words, and short sentences which will most likely hold the audiences’ attention longer.
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me to repeat myself after asking a question like “would that be all for you?”, I would have a jar filled with money. I can assure you that while I don’t particularly use any “big” words when having a conversation with someone, there is always a possibility for them to have difficulties understanding me. This is why writing or speaking in plain language has been something I continuously do because it works for me and the other person also, it saves me from having to repeat myself three times or more. Writing in particular makes it easy to get a message across more quickly and increases the chance the information will be understood without using unnecessary words.
Plain writing helps audiences from different scopes of life to be able to grasp the meaning behind the words of a communicator. It would be much harder for someone who has no background knowledge of science or mathematics to understand what Newton’s Law of Gravity states but I bet when you say the words “what goes up must come down” he immediately grasps the concept behind the law as something he has heard before. I believe the plain style of writing does have benefits for technical writing students. Because it can help us to apply the principles of plain language in our work, and helps us to understand better than anyone how plain language can improve communication throughout society.
FDA U.S Food and Drug Administration. 18 Apr. 2013. Web. 4 Oct. 2014. <http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/PlainLanguage/ucm331958.htm>.