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Why plain language beats word salad hands down

In his 1991 book, ‘The Miracle of Language’, Richard Lederer writes: “When you speak and write, there is no law that says you have to use big words. Short words are as good as long ones, and short, old words – like sun and grass and home – are best of all. A lot of small words, more than you might think, can meet your needs with a strength, grace, and charm that large words do not have.”

That is the essence of plain language – that you never use complicated or overly long words when a short one will do. And that you never use many words when a single one will do.

Plain language is not about dumbing things down, or writing so simply that it reads like a six-year-old’s storybook, however. In fact, it’s about being precise and deliberate in the way you choose your words so that your writing is accurate, brief and clear – and still eloquent.

It’s also inclusive – especially in a setting where you have second language speakers, or people with varying levels of education.

And it’s powerful – because if you wield it well, plain language can move your message past people’s minds, and into their hearts.

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