Category Archives: Plain Language

Need to apologize? Speak plain English.


There are good ways and bad ways to address a customer service fiasco. Courtesy of Southwest Airlines, here’s one of the bad ways: “We are working directly with the family after sincerely apologizing and issuing a full refund for their … Continue reading

Posted in Business writing, Plain Language | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Don’t fear contractions


Are you still fearful of using contractions? Don’t be. They have a long and storied history. For more, see my article “Contractions and how not to abuse ‘em.” (Hat tip to Ray Ward.)

Posted in Everyday writing, Grammar, Plain Language, Usage | Tagged | 1 Comment

Writing for the web and email


I’m betting that much of what you write ends up in email messages, or on the web. If that’s the case, Jakob Nielsen has some advice for you, based on his studies of how people read email and web pages.

Posted in Audience, Good advice from here and there, Jargon, Plain Language, Style manual, Word Choice | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Plain English in the coffee shop


Hey, coffee lovers! What size is that latte? Short, tall, grande, or venti? Premi, media, or massimo? (Does anyone know what those mean, anyway? Who, other than Italians, knows that venti means “twenty,” as in twenty fluid ounces of caffeinated … Continue reading

Posted in Humor, Plain Language | 4 Comments

Three writing tips from Louis L’Amour


Louis L’Amour is one of America’s most popular authors, with more than 100 books to his credit, all of which are still in print, and almost all of which have sold more than a million copies. For my last birthday, … Continue reading

Posted in Audience, Growing as a writer, Plain Language, Word Choice | 1 Comment

Use short words


Joanna Young poses the ever-fresh question: Why do people use long words? All of the writing mavens tell us to use short words, and research backs it up. What was it about complex, hard to read words that people were … Continue reading

Posted in Elsewhere on the Web, Plain Language, Word Choice | 3 Comments

Not your run-of-the-mill warning sign


Here’s a warning sign that gets its message across with some vivid language: The text says: DANGERDO NOT TOUCHNot only will this kill you, it will hurt the whole time you’re dying. On one hand, I think this sort of … Continue reading

Posted in Humor, Plain Language | 2 Comments

On Brevity


Want to impress an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court? Here’s Antonin Scalia, in the September 14, 2008 Parade: What are the most common mistakes lawyers make? In written arguments, it’s verbosity. Brevity is crucial. Words piled upon words … Continue reading

Posted in Good advice from here and there, Plain Language | Leave a comment

Plain language: It’s not just a good idea…


If the members of the U.S. Senate join their colleagues in the House of Representatives, plain language may soon become the law of the land. The House recently passed H.R. 3548, the Plain Language in Government Communications Act, which would … Continue reading

Posted in Plain Language | 4 Comments

Bah, Humbug! Business Jargon Needn’t Be a Done Deal


Editor’s Note – I’m trying something different with this article: It’s a downloadable Adobe Acrobat file. It’s licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License, which means you are free to distribute copies of the work. … Continue reading

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