Many equate plain language with plain words. While plain words are important, plain language is much more than this.
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Scientists who write content for their organisation’s websites might resist advice to write in plain language. Some find it hard to avoid ‘scientese’. This article shows advice from science journal style guides to encourage scientists to write more readable science for the web.
If you want to write better web content, here’s an A-Z that should help. It covers attributes of quality content and other issues web writers should be aware of.
If you want to write better content for your website, intranet or blog, aim for these 7 qualities. They’re based on the classic ‘7 Cs of communication’, reworked for communicating online.
The accessibility guidelines require grade 9 readability for content. Otherwise we should provide supplementary content (visuals, for example), or an easy-to-read summary.
The accessibility guidelines require we expand or define any abbreviations in our content. Often it’s even better to avoid using abbreviations, especially acronyms and initialisms.
The accessibility guidelines require that we explain or define any jargon, idioms or unusual words in our content. Often it’s even better to avoid using those words.
Some web writers object to using plain language, saying their role is to educate and expand users’ vocabulary. That’s a poor argument unless you’re developing learning materials, or working an encyclopedia website.
When you use common words in a special way (jargon), your customers are likely to misunderstand you. This is an example from a local government website where the word ‘pergola’ is used in a restricted sense, as defined by state legislation.
I’ve long been a fan of Whitney Quesenbery’s 5 Es of usability. They’re a great way to explain usability to clients, designers and developers. I think the 5 Es can also help us explain content usability.
If you’ve ever watched people read online, you’ll know they often don’t read closely. Most people scan-read a lot of the time. They just want the information they need. They can’t be bothered with the rest.
Should I blame journalists for the overuse of these two awful words: ‘undertake’ and ‘undergo’? They’re in news headlines and TV news stories every day. But they’re also lurking on the web. Here’s how to avoid using them in your online content.