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Clear Writing and Plain Language

An excerpt from the EPA writing course, by Nick Wright.

Good writing:

  • is clear thinking on paper
  • contains specific information which is relevant to the reader
  • keeps to plain language principles
  • is logically arranged and easy to follow

Good writing is effortless reading that makes you want to read more. It is clear and concise, uses short sentences and simple words. It keeps to the facts and is easy to read and to understand. It is so clear, the reader can take in the writer’s exact message in one reading. For most of us, good writing doesn’t come naturally, it’s a skill we need to learn. However, you can learn to write well using plain language principles.

Plain language is clear language. It is simple and direct but not simplistic or patronizing. Using plain language doesn’t mean everyone’s writing must sound the same. There is no one ‘right’ way to express an idea. Every thought can be expressed in many different ways and the variety comes from the individual way we approach an idea or writing task. There’s plenty of room for your own style—but it will only blossom once you have overcome the poor writing habits that are typical of most government writing.