Plain English for the public sector

Get ready for future legislation on plain language

Plain English benefits everyone. It’s easy and quick to read – and it’s not ‘dumbed down’. However, it isn’t one size fits all. It often depends on who you are writing for. For example, what’s plain language for a government agency is not plain language for your website.  Plain English means writing so that your intended audience gets the message the first time they read.

This highly practical training will give participants the skills and confidence to write successfully in plain English – and to prepare for future legislation on plain language for the public sector. During the course, participants apply the principles of plain English to a range of authentic materials to ensure they take away skills they can immediately put into practice.

We tailor the one-day course so that it is suitable for participants and for your organisation.  We’ve delivered it to managers and staff in government departments and agencies, banks, insurance companies, utility firms and call centres.

On successful completion, participants will understand how to:

  • Plan well-structured, accessible communications
  • Write in plain English for different audiences and types of communication
  • Use clear, concise English with a professional tone
  • Update materials to ensure they comply with plain English guidelines
  • Edit their own and colleagues’ writing to a plain English standard

Course content

Part 1 – Overview of plain English

  • What is plain English? What are the benefits?
  • How to assess readability using the Flesch Reading Ease Scale
  • Identify plain English for different types of writing: forms, websites, reports, letters etc.
  • Importance of a suitable style and tone of voice for your target audiences
  • Benefits of a plain English style guide

Part 2 – Planning to achieve objectives

  • Planning for accessibility
  • Define your purpose and identify your target audiences
  • Create an effective objectives statement
  • Step-by-step guide to creating a structured outline
  • Use critical thinking to ensure you write the right document

Part 3 – How to make your writing plain and professional

  • Use everyday professional English – in an appropriate style for reports, web content etc.
  • Build short, clear, strong sentences and paragraphs
  • Use strong active verbs for clarity
  • Cut dead wood, repetition, padding and wordiness
  • Be careful with jargon, technical terms and buzz words
  • How to use acronyms and abbreviations
  • Use headings, bullet lists and topic sentences for navigation
  • Use frontloading, signposts and linking words for flow and readability
  • Take a punctuation refresher
  • Use a plain English checklist

Part 4 – Reviewing

  • Strategies to review your own work
  • Use an editing checklist
  • Become aware of common errors (grammar, punctuation, use of English, spelling)
  • Identify your own ‘problem areas’
  • Layout – Make it reader-friendly

Resources – Reinforce the learning 

  • A resource pack (checklists, punctuation factsheet, common errors etc.)
  • Online writers’ resources

This can also be delivered as a half-day course. Please contact us for further details.