When you are writing content for the web, there is a temptation to use complex words and long sentences. This isn’t always helpful because it can lead to confusion on behalf of your readers.
Plain language is an easy way to make sure that all of your viewers understand what you are trying to say. In this blog post, we will discuss 10 ways that using plain language will help you write better web content!
What is plain Language?
Plain language is a type of writing that web users can easily understand. It uses clear and simple words, sentences, and format instead of technical terms or confusing wording.
When web content is written in plain language it makes reading easier for everyone – web visitors who may have disabilities as well as those who speak English as a second language. A plain language website also helps search engines find your content.
The plain Language Association International (PLAIN) states that plain writing is “the use of words and presentation techniques to help people understand what you write.” One way to ensure plain writing, they said, is by using short sentences with simple verbs. The word “you” should be used when possible, and be descriptive to avoid using jargon or acronyms.
Writing plain language is not about dumbing down the content; it’s about making it easier to understand. People do not want to read complex sentences or industry-specific jargon that they don’t understand. Making your content plain is about removing confusion.
To write plain language, your content needs to be focused on the audience and their experience with it.
Why is it important to write in plain language?
Plain language is intended to make reading easier for readers, particularly those who may be learning English or are not native speakers. It’s also intended to help readers get to the point quickly and understand what you intended.
The intended audience is a key factor when deciding whether or not it’s best to use plain language for content writing. For example, if your site caters towards children, then using simple words might be appropriate, but it wouldn’t work well on a website intended toward professionals in their respective fields.
If you are writing in plain language, it’s important to also consider using active voice instead of passive sentences so that your intended meaning is clear. For example, “The ball was kicked” can be transformed into “I kicked the ball.” The same goes for word choice–be mindful about repeating the same words over and over again.
When Should You Use Plain Language on Your Website?
- You want your user to be able to easily understand what you’re saying. User research shows that users have a hard time getting through websites because of the jargon and technical language used.
- Official websites use plain language because it is easier for people with low literacy skills or who are not native English speakers to read. It also makes information more accessible for everyone.
- User research shows that users have a hard time getting through websites because of the jargon and technical language used.
It is paramount to note that from the research done, plain language works with everyone and can be used in any particular situation.
Why is plain language used in technical writing?
Plain language is used to increase readability and clarity in technical writing. This type of writing improves readability by using short sentences, simple words, words that are commonly used, and shorter paragraphs.
The purpose of technical content is not just for the reader but also the search engines as well. Using plain language also helps secure websites because it reduces the chance of a written piece being misinterpreted, creating a more accurate representation of your products or services.
Using words that are commonly used can be helpful when you have an international audience since they will likely know what most common English words mean in their native language.
10 ways that using plain language will help you write better web content
- 1. Plain language helps people read, understand, and act on your content.
- 2. Plain language will help you get better readability scores on readability measures like Flesch Reading Ease.
- 3. Less chance of misinterpretations because it is easier to read in plain language what you mean to say.
- 4. Writing in plain language will keep your readers engaged with your content more often than if they read something that is overly complicated for them to read through without understanding it the first time around.
- 5. Writing in plain language makes your official website easier to manage by reducing potential for errors in readability.
- 6. Using plain language on gov websites cuts down on the number of complaints your organization receives.
- 7. When writing sensitive information plain language is best to use. It will be well received and the chances for mis-interpretation are low.
Principles of Plain Language Writing
Here are some steps to follow when considering to use plain language in your website:
Use short sentences
Use simple, active sentence structure and choose words carefully. If your content is long, read it out loud to check for difficult language or jargon that might be confusing.
Make sure you follow the next two steps: Avoid unnecessary jargon and Write in a style that fits with how people communicate now.
Include relevant keywords in your content to help search engines find the page. Avoid using unnecessary words and stick to short paragraphs.
Write in a conversational tone
Write in a conversational tone that fits with how people communicate now online. If you write the same way you talk, the reader will easily relate with the content.
Include appropriate graphics, multimedia content and hyperlinks
Use simple graphics or images to illustrate points in your content. Link important words and phrases to relevant pages within the site, other websites or external sites with related topics.
This will help users understand what you are saying more clearly.
Use lists and headings
Use short sentences, bullet points or numbered lists to organize your content. Use a larger font size for main headings so the topics stand out from the rest of the text on the page.
This makes it easier for users to scan and skim through information quickly when they are interested in only part of an article. In addition, this allows users to easily skim through the information and find what is relevant.
Identify the purpose of your content and remove unnecessary words. For example, use “get” instead of “obtain” or stay on topic with a subject rather than wandering off into other related ideas.
This will give users a clear idea about what they are reading and make it easy to find relevant information quickly.
Use Strong Verbs
Use verbs to describe what people do, rather than telling them what they are doing. For example instead of saying “click on the download button” say “Click the download button.”
This will make your content easier for users to understand and more engaging as well. Remember to use action verbs.
Use white space to guide users’ eyes down the page and increase readability. Avoid using too many graphics or images that will take away from your content and make it harder for readers to find relevant information.
The more focused a visitor is on your site, the easier it will be for you to convey important messages about why they should trust in your organization’s abilities.
To Wrap it all up
Plain Language writing makes the writer and reader more efficient by making it clear what is being said. Plain Language writing helps people to understand, remember and use information in a way that suits them best.
It’s not about dumbing down content or talking like your audience but rather using simple words, sentence structure and avoiding jargon where possible to make written communication simpler for everyone. Remember, you should not assume that your target audience has read related pages on the content you are writing.
Writing Plain Language does not have to be complicated or time-consuming. It is a simple concept that can quickly help you reach your readers and keep them reading, engaged and satisfied with what they’ve just read.
Work with a writer
Do you want to use plain language on your web content? Are you looking to hire a writer to help you write plain language? If so, we would love to talk with you. We offer content writing services and can work within your brand guidelines or bring our own expertise if needed.
If you want help converting your existing content into clear and concise text then contact us today! Our writers will work with you until everything makes sense. We’re very good at what we do!
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