• Shelley Purchon

How to write simply

How good are you at making things simple for your reader? Do you know how to simplify without dumbing down? If you have a mixed readership, you need to write copy that's clear to the people who struggle with reading without alienating the rest. In this post I'll share some free tips.

It's harder than you think to write simply. That's why English Unlocked provides a rewriting service for our clients - we are experts in communicating with people who are learning English. We can help you write content just for them.

But what if your readership is mixed?

The example below comes from an information sheet that we rewrote for a charity here in Newcastle. All sorts of parents would read the sheet - a sizeable minority of them don't have English as their first language. Those families had struggled in previous years to answer the questions on the sheet and required a lot of guidance from staff.

The challenge

Our task was to rewrite the document so that immigrant families would understand it more clearly BUT without insulting the intelligence of those readers who speak English well. At English Unlocked we call this an 'All Purpose Rewrite.' (Click here to read more about the two types of rewrite we offer.)

What would you change?

Here you can see some of the source material BEFORE we worked our magic.

Not too bad is it? It's fine for native English speakers, but there is room for improvement. In the image below you can see how I transformed these two paragraphs.

The new version

How many differences can you spot?

Think about-

  • Formatting

  • White space

  • Word choice

  • Sentence length

  • Sentence complexity

  • Choice of tenses

The longer you look at the first version, the more you'll spot things which needed to change. That's what happened to me, too.

The first version had some great points

It was warm, welcoming and informative but the chatty informal tone and sentence length were confusing for English learners. So were certain words ( E.g. 'work out') and tenses ('I'll be contacting you.') I could easily spot these because I'm a former English teacher.

Version two is still friendly

By using a photo of Jeremy we've made it seem just as warm as the original. Why not add more photos to your writing? As well as making your text easier to understand they make it more inviting to read.

Get your text rewritten

You can send us something which is currently too hard for learners of English unless they have an advanced English level. We'll rewrite it so that someone with an intermediate English level can understand it. If you care about Equality Diversity and Inclusion this will widen the net of readers who can engage with your content. As Jeremy found, using clearer documents can also save staff time.

Our eBook gives more tips.

If you read it you'll get better at producing content which works for everyone. Everyone who subscribes to our monthly bulletin 'Unlocked Resources' gets the eBook - click below to enter your email address.

Interested in a rewrite? Here's how it works.

Thanks to Jeremy Cain from The Mercy Hub for allowing others to learn from this example.

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