Following this helps:

  • people in a hurry – straightforward words are easier to scan and absorb
  • people who are stressed – jargon and metaphor will be hard to understand
  • people who are multi-tasking – no time to decipher complex language
  • cognitive impairments – words with simple meaning carry less cognitive load
  • dyslexic users –  clear, concise language is more helpful
  • users with low literacy – who read text word by word
  • users with sight loss – RNIB recommend using plain English
  • autistic users – National Autistic Society advise against the use of jargon


Guidelines

Think about what you’re actually doing and describe that. Be open and specific.

1. Never use vague words and jargon.

2. Avoid metaphors.

3. Do not use Latin.

Usability evidence

Tools
 



1. Never use vague words and jargon.

Vague words mean nothing. They waste time and irritate users. They also limit understanding, and can make users trust your content less. 

Jargon usually means something else. It causes confusion.
 

Examples:

  • agenda (unless it’s for a meeting)
  • advancing
  • collaborate (use working with)
  • combating
  • commit/pledge (we need to be more specific – we’re either doing something or we’re not)
  • countering
  • deliver (pizzas, post and services are delivered – not abstract concepts like improvements or priorities)
  • deploy (unless it’s military or software)
  • dialogue (we speak to people)
  • disincentivise (and incentivise)
  • empower
  • facilitate (instead, say something specific about how you’re helping)
  • focusing
  • foster (unless it’s children)
  • impact (do not use this as a synonym for have an effect on, or influence)
  • initiate
  • key (unless it unlocks something. A subject/thing is not key – it’s probably important)
  • land (as a verb only use if you’re talking about aircraft)
  • leverage (unless in the financial sense)
  • liaise
  • overarching
  • progress (as a verb – what are you actually doing?)
  • promote (unless you’re talking about an ad campaign or some other marketing promotion)
  • robust
  • slimming down (processes do not diet)
  • streamline
  • strengthening (unless it’s strengthening bridges or other structures)
  • tackling (unless it’s rugby, football or some other sport)
  • transforming (what are you actually doing to change it?)
  • utilise (use "use")
     

2. Avoid metaphors.

Avoid using metaphors. They do not say what you actually mean. This is likely to lead to slower comprehension of your content.

Examples:

  • drive (you can only drive vehicles, not schemes or people)
  • drive out (unless it’s cattle)
  • going forward (it’s unlikely we are giving travel directions)
  • in order to (superfluous – do not use it)
  • ring fencing

3. Do not use Latin.

Examples:

  • per annum – each year
  • eg – for example
  • ie – that is
  • pro bono – for free

Usability evidence

GOV.UK Style guide A to Z, UK Government website

Plain English and words to avoid, UK Government website

'Jargon in Technical Writing', J. H. Dawson, ARS, Prosser, WA 99350, Weed Technology, 1989, Volumne 3:540 2008

'The Basic Spelling Vocabulary List', Steve Graham, Karen R. Harris, Connie Loynachan, Reading Rockets, 2013

'ASD Simplified Technical English', Simplified Technical English, ASD-STE100, 2017

List of plain English words and phrases, Wikipedia, last updated 2018

Tools

Hemingway app tool

Readable.io tool

Tags:
Created by Lizzie Bruce on 2019/03/06 18:13