Oxford guide to plain english, Fourth edition, Cutts M., 2013

Oxford guide to plain english, Fourth edition, Cutts M., 2013.

   My thanks go to those who have given help and advice on parts of this edition. Chapter 23 draws heavily on the practical knowledge of Janet Pringle, a Canadian expert on the needs of low-literacy readers, and she also commented in detail on the draft of that chapter. My colleague Sarah Carr commented on chapter ю and conducted several readability tests for me. Christina Gleeson, another Plain Language Commission associate, spent many hours extracting word-frequency data from the sources. I remain grateful to Monica Sowash, who ran the focus-group interviews for the original edition in 1995. Throughout, my wife Ingrid has given constant help and support. The book is dedicated to my parents, Ivor and Joan Cutts, for bringing me up with an interest in words and for their many years of encouragement.

Oxford guide to plain english, Fourth edition, Cutts M., 2013

Preferring plain words.
Here is a US secretary of state refusing an assistant’s request for a pay rise:

Because of the fluctuational predisposition of your positions productive capacity as juxtaposed to government standards, it would be momentarily injudicious to advocate an increment.

This overdresses a simple idea in phrases designed to show the authors high status in the pecking order. In forelock-tugging times, people might have been impressed. Now they smell pomposity, and dislike being forced to translate into plain English.

A foggy style is also bad because busy readers may miss the point. So if you’re an accountancy firm, it's unwise to write a business proposal in language like this:

At present the recessionary cycle is aggravating volumes through your modem manufacturing and order processing environments which provide restricted opportunities for cost reduction through labour adjustments and will remain a key issue.

Starting points.
Summary of guidelines.
1 Writing short sentences and clear paragraphs.
2 Preferring plain words.
3 Writing tight.
4 Favouring active-voice verbs.
5 Using vigorous verbs, and untying noun strings.
6 Using vertical lists.
7 Converting negative to positive.
8 Cross-references, cross readers.
9 Using good punctuation.
10 Pitching your writing at the right level.
11 Six writing myths explored and exploded.
12 Clearly non-sexist.
13 Conquering grammarphobia.
14 Sound starts and excellent endings.
15 Planning well.
16 Using reader-centred structure.
17 Using alternatives to words, words, words.
18 Management of colleagues’ writing.
19 Good practice with email.
20 Writing better instructions.
21 Clarity for the Web.
22 Lucid legal language.
23 Writing low-literacy plain English.
24 Basics of clear layout.
25 Keeping errors in Czech: its time to Proof read.
Appendix: commonest words.
Sources and notes.

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