Biz Tips: 6 reasons why using Plain Language is a bullseye for your business

Biz Tips: 6 reasons why using Plain Language is a bullseye for your business


6 reasons why using Plain Language is a bullseye for your business

“Any fool can make things bigger and more complex . It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in in the opposite direction” — A. Einstein.

What type of communication do you choose to address your product’s audience?

Are you sure the wording that you use puts things clearly for the readers?

And if you’re not, have you ever wondered how much it influences your business?

Far too often, the answer is NO. At the same time, business procedures are full of misunderstandings, confusion, and unconfidence, that usually result in work delays, frustration and instability.

So, how to improve the efficiency of your writing?

How to make your business documentation/app copy/ web page content clear and understandable?

If you want to address your audience truly effectively, Plain Language is the answer for all the above.

What is Plain Language?

By definition, Plain Language is “expression of essential information so that it can be understood and used by the person who needs the information.

US Centre for Plain Communication:

“A communication is in plain language if the people, who are the audience for that communication can quickly and easily:

— Find what they need

— Understand what they find

— Act appropriately on that understanding.”

The importance of plain communication was noted i.a by Barack Obama, the former president of the US. In 2010, he signed the Plain Language Act, obliging all the public institutions to form their documents in plain language, so that they are clearly understandable for people that they concern.

Now, let’s focus how this form of communication can improve the performance of your business.

Plain Language increases efficiency

Plain Language makes the information way quicker to read and easier to understand. As a result, it minimises time and money needed to deal with inquiries, explanations, trainings. This may improve the efficiency of your business on two levels:

a) Internal processes

Using plain language in your documentation influences the work comfort for your employees, improves their efficiency and understanding of processes and regulations. The team performs their tasks more accurately and confidently, which provides better stability and lower turnover rate.

b) Customers’ attraction

Do you want your customers to pay you some money? Make them understand your website, copy inside your application, your startups value proposition etc. Do it plainly. Even the most promising concept may (and probably will) fail, if the customers don’t get the idea of the product/service. Minimising time needed to educate your audience will let you put more focus and effort on actual selling.

Plain Language saves money

Unnecessary complexity usually comes with costs. Cheryl Stephens, the author of “Plain Language in Plain English”, describes a great example of this in her book.

“ An investment company was spending a million annually to administer nine different five-part forms. A plain language consultant was brought in to streamline the process.(…) The results were dramatic. Within the first 6 months of implementing the new form and the company’s first-year printing costs were reduced by $700,000.”

Plain Language reduces training time

If your documentation is plain, the team understands the content and feel confident enough to share their understanding. Betsy Frick, of Plain Language Solutions, designed the training program about sales and wrote it in plain launguage. Results?

  • The training members understood all the clear materials and could provide the training across the rest of the company
  • New sales managers got to know their job better with no confusion or stress
  • The same training materials, including translations, worked also for other departments within the company
  • The cost of providing just one plain language version of the training program (that worked in its original version and translations) was much lower than organising individual trainings in each department

Plain Language increases customers’ satisfaction

In the era of tweets, snaps and blogs the customers have a lot of channels to share their dissatisfaction with your product or service. Let’s say that your product is an application. If the users don’t understand its content, they will either leave it aside and delete it after one use, or go further, complaining about your app on social media.

Now, let’s focus on alternative scenario. You care about clear in-app communication, so you provide your users with easily understandable, plain content of your app. Users’ satisfaction is obviously influenced by a list of factors, you we can’t assume that a plain copy is the one and only deal-maker. But what we can be sure about is that if the users understand what they are reading, plus they like the general idea of your app, they will more likely feel attracted to it, use it on a daily basis and recommend it to their friends.

Plain Language gives you better understanding of your audience

You’re addressing your copy to a specified audience, so before you write a word you need to know who is involved in your target.

  • What are your reader’s needs? Address those needs in a document/app copy/ text that you create.
  • What are their goals? Think about these goals, not yours.
  • How do they communicate? Choose worlds that they use, mind their likings, habits and cultural nuances.
  • What are you going to communicate? Do it in the most plain way that you can. Avoid metaphors, vague definition, slang or highly specialised language.

Figuring out the answers gives you a picture of your readers, helps you create personas and make your words appealing, understandable and effective.

Plain Language lets you reach more readers

Plain Language approach requires understanding how particular users will receive and use information that you provide to them. This means that well designed plain language communication lets you widen your target audience, including people with:

  • Cognitive difficulties. This group covers:
  • – brain injuries
  • – developmental disorders
  • – language impairments and delays
  • – autism spectrum disorder
  • – auditory processing disorders

Think that the prevalence of these disorders is minor?

According to studies, up to 10% of UK’s workforce has dyslexia, which impairs their reading, writing and spelling. Also, it’s estimated that 1 in 68 children in the USA is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

  • Sensory processing disorders, so namely, groups with:
  • – visual or auditory challenges
  • – delayed development
  • – abnormal development
  • – inherited conditions

Sensory disorders influence the processes of reading and comprehension, causing e.g problems with selecting information, decision making and filtering out the most important info. If you mind this fact during creating your content, you’ll make it inclusive for another 3,4 % (8,3 million adults) of USA citizens.

  • English as a second language (ESL)

Multicultural populations include people whose first language is not English. Even if they understand the language, they may have difficulties with complex expressions, words with multiple meaning or phrasal. Plain Language avoids all the above, so it means a green light for ESLs.

  • People with low literacy

Literacy involves not just being able to read the words, but also understand them and use the information that you read. You might be surprised, but many adults are able to real only slowly and inaccurately, and they cannot handle challenging texts. According to National Adult Literacy Survey run by US Department of Education,

“87% of American adults are unable to compare viewpoints in two editorials because they lack the necessary reading proficiency.”

Plain Language makes texts accessible not only for the high-literate ones, but also for those, whose reading abilities are limited. And with 87% of USA population facing reading struggles, we can no longer claim the problem concerns the minority.

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6 reasons why using Plain Language is a bullseye for your business was originally published in Marketing And Growth Hacking on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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