Plain Language Ninja
So I scooted my chair over and looked at it. Then I looked at him and asked, “But what is it supposed to do?”
He said, “It’s supposed to convey, at a very high level, what we’re doing in the next year.”
I said, “Oh.”
My next words were, “Can I have your mouse?”
Because what I saw was a paragraph about 15 lines long. And the words “pilot study” were in the first sentence. I could guess where this was going.
He wanted to tell me about the pilot study; I didn’t want to hear about the pilot study.
I wanted the results.
So I took the mouse and went through my ninja routine, honed by about 20 years of plain language editing..
So my first step was to separate all the sentences so I could see them distinctly.
Then I deleted the pilot study sentences.
Then I moved the last two sentences to the top.
Then I connected two sentences, took out three prepositional phrases, and changed all “Divisions” to “We.”
I moved the screen over to my coworker. “How’s that?” I asked.
His eyes were bugged out in surprise. “How did you do that so quickly?” he said.
You too can be a plain language ninja.
Here’s what you do:
- Organize for the reader reader-centered
- Use design features such as headers, tables, and bullets
- Shorten your sentences and paragraphs
- Use “you,” “we,” and other pronouns
- Use active voice, not passive
- Focus on verbs, not nouns
- Use consistent terms, not jargon or acronyms
- Use common, everyday words