01782 450760

Single Post

Ever heard of the Plain English campaign?

VOICES plain english

By Mandy Jago, Staff Wellbeing Manager/Organisational Development Consultant, NHS Combined Healthcare and VOICES volunteer


Ever heard of the Plain English campaign?

Chrissie Maher started the Plain English Campaign in 1979, to campaign against jargon and misleading public information. She believes that everyone should have access to clear and easily understandable information.


Let’s think about medical information….

Here’s an example of what the Plain English Campaign would call gobbledygook:

‘The criteria are embedded within an indication of needs matrix, encompassing the continuum of care needs. The criteria for fully funded NHS care (levels 5-6) are designed to take account of the needs of those only at the most complex end of the continuum. The vast majority of those in receipt of care from health and social care services are provided from a range of mainstream services, which are available to all according to their need, or packages of support provided jointly by health and social care working in partnership (levels 1-4).”
(From a letter to a patient from an NHS Trust)

 Clear? Easy to understand?  Hardly.


So why does that matter?

Around 15 per cent of adults in England have literacy levels at or below those expected of an 11-year-old.  This means that they can understand short straightforward texts on familiar topics accurately and independently. But reading information from unfamiliar sources, or on unfamiliar topics, could cause problems.


Given that, badly written leaflets, forms and letters mean that many people do not get the services that they need and become excluded.  For instance, they may not get the right benefits, medical or social care support, legal help and so on.  And Chrissie’s view is that that is a scandal.


If you think that your writing could be more “Plain English”, here are some tips to follow:


  • Stop and think before you start writing. Make a note of the points you want to make in a logical order.
  • Prefer short words. Long words are not impressive.
  • Use everyday English whenever possible. Avoid jargon and legalistic words, and always explain any technical terms you have to use.
  • Keep your sentence length down to an average of 15 to 20 words. Try to stick to one main idea in a sentence.
  • Use active verbs as much as possible. Say ‘we will do it’ rather than ‘it will be done by us’.
  • Be concise.
  • Imagine you are talking to your reader. Write sincerely, personally, in a style that is suitable and with the right tone of voice.
  • And always check that your writing is clear, helpful, human and polite.


Want to know more? Follow this link – http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/free-guides/60-how-to-write-in-plain-english.html

Scroll to Top