Whatever your audience, all communications should be written in plain English and in a consistent style.

Plain English

The Plain English Campaign describes plain English as 'text that is written with the reader in mind'. The aim is to ensure that the style, tone and vocabulary are appropriate to your target audience.

Some basic guidelines include:

  • Know your audience – use the right language and tone.
  • Use simple language – don't use a long word if there is a shorter equivalent. Avoid jargon.
  • Be concise – keep sentences short and to the point.
  • Use active rather than passive verbs.
  • Have a clear message – focus on what you want to communicate and what you want your audience to do as a result.

Style guides

It is useful to produce a simple style guide on written English as part of your overall branding guidelines. This can cover the use of plain English, appropriate terminology and consistent approaches to common topics.

There are a number of online style guides that offer useful examples and points of reference, for example:

Specialist help and training

The Plain English Campaign and the Plain Language Commission offer a range of services including guides, training courses, editing services and accreditation of publications and websites.

The Plain English Campaign website also has free guides on topics such as how to write letters and reports, writing for the web and an A-Z of alternative words.

Our media training courses include tips from journalists on how to make material accessible for the media. In the website guidance section, you can also find advice on writing for the web.

It is always worth using the skills of a specialist writer if it is important that you reach a particular audience. The Communications team can advise on good specialist and freelance writers - email comms@esrc.ukri.org.