Many words and phrases we use every day have simpler words you can use instead. Swap these everyday words and phrases for plain English alternatives.
Using plain English makes your writing and communication easier to understand. It’s a more accessible and inclusive way of sharing information. Whether that’s in your writing or the way you speak in meetings, for example.
How plain English and simple language benefits all users
Complicated language excludes people. Using generic expressions, long words and acronyms can cause barriers for certain people.
In the UK, 1 in 6 adults has difficulties reading (National Literacy Trust). And 10% of the population have dyslexia.
Plain English means avoiding complex language and jargon. Clearer, more concise language is easier for your reader. Plain language is faster to read, too. The plainer your language is, the more likely that the reader will understand your message the first time they read it.
Writing in plain English is more inclusive of disabled people. It can help people:
- with learning difficulties
- with dyslexia
- with autism
- who are anxious
- who English is their second language
- who are deaf and use British Sign Language (BSL)
Writing clearly in a way that avoids jargon also helps people:
- who have poor working memory
- are easily distracted
- are slower at reading or processing information
- have difficulty identifying the main points from a long passage of text
- have a very literal understanding of language
- are reading in a rush
It’s easy to slip into bad habits. Especially if your organisation uses complex language and jargon all the time.
Plain English alternatives
The Plain English campaign has an A to Z of alternatives you can use. We’ve included a list of some of the most common ones below.
These alternatives are typically shorter and easier to understand. But that’s not always the case. A word like ‘key’ is short. But for a word like henceforth, the alternative looks longer.
|Avoid||Use this alternative instead|
|“the norm”||normal, standard|
|a large number of||many|
|additional||more, added, other|
|determine||work out, decide|
|henceforth||from now on, from today|
|implement||start, put in place|
|in lieu of||instead of|
|in order to||to|
|in relation to||about|
|is applicable to||applies to|
|is in accordance with||meets, follows, agrees with|
|to date||so far|
|will be able to||can|
|allocate||divide, share, add, give|
Words and phrases to avoid
You’ll often find the following expressions in more formal styles of writing. Like reports and legal documents.
But they do not add any further meaning to your message. They just add extra words and noise.
You’ll find that your message will still make sense if you cut them from your vocabulary and writing.
- due to the fact that
- all things being equal
- for all intents and purposes
- in view of the fact that
- in order to
- it should be understood that
- as far as I am concerned
- in the process of
- the fact of the matter is
- take action to
- along the lines of
More resources for accessible communication
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