Say It Plain With Plain Language

Say It Plain With Plain Language

What Is Plain Language?

Communicating in an understandable language is fundamental for meaningful human interaction. When a person does not understand a foreign language spoken to him, there remains a darkness about the intentions of that person speaking.

This same problem can exist when the same language is spoken between two people but not in a clear, understandable way. The meaning can be missed just as well. It can be argued that if the federal government, or anyone, insisted on unclear, complex statements when communicating, then they are being dishonest. They are not being honorable in the sense of being transparent with their citizens. This does not encourage trust. Trust is fundamental in both leadership and a contractual relationship.

The US government’s Plain Writing Act, established in 2010, mandates that government agencies use contract language that is plain and understandable to the average person. It was motivated by the conviction that the citizens of the US deserve to understand what their government is saying, although the Act does not cover regulations. It requires federal agencies to compose “clear government communication that the public can understand and use.”

Some Principles For Plain Language

· Use One Idea per Sentence Long, complex sentences with connected ideas and supporting clauses are hard to follow. People won’t absorb the main point because of the distractions of subordinate ideas. Instead, break up complex thoughts into easily expressed short sentence units that contribute to the main point. Readers will more effectively track your thinking.

· Avoid Long sentences Shorter sentences promote successful communication. A single idea conveyed in one short sentence appears and sticks to the reader’s mind more easily. Readers will see the idea better than reading longer sentences carrying a train of related notions.

Parts of a complex idea are more easily grasped when presented individually. The reader can then build up the simple ideas to the complex idea structure more successfully.

· Use an Active Voice Using an active voice easily points out the actor in a sentence. Passive voice sentences can seem evasive regarding significant actors in a contract agreement, for example.

Business Use Of Plain Language

Not only does the federal government need to use plain language for its public communications but private enterprises should too. Commercial corporations should be clear when drafting contracts to procure business. Whether these contracts are between business to business, or doing business with the federal government, the contractual language should be plain and understandable. Without such clarity in the language, both sides stand to lose something important. Promises might fall short of desired requirements. Expected obligations might not be met. And there will be violated the trust and damaged business prospects.

Advanced software technologies using AI and NLP can help companies to know whether their contract language is plain enough for fair dealings. It can demonstrate whether the contractual language is readable or not. The Content Analytics Platform (CAP), developed by Scion Analytics, can provide readability scores for any size document, regardless of its complexity.