Service experts often say that because they’re writing technical or complex content for a specialist audience, they don’t need to use plain English.

This is wrong.

Research shows that higher literacy people prefer plain English because it allows them to understand the information as quickly as possible.

For example, research into use of specialist legal language in legal documents found:

  • 80% of people preferred sentences written in clear English – and the more complex the issue, the greater that preference (eg, 97% preferred ‘among other things’ over the Latin ‘inter alia’)
  • the more educated the person and the more specialist their knowledge, the greater their preference for plain English

People understand complex specialist language, but don’t want to read it if there’s an alternative. This is because people with the highest literacy levels and the greatest expertise tend to have the most to read. They don’t have time to pore through reams of dry, complicated prose.

Technical terms

Where you need to use technical terms, you can. They’re not jargon.

You just need to explain what they mean the first time you use them.

Legal content

Legal content can still be written in plain English. It’s important that users understand content and that we present complicated information simply.

If you have to publish legal jargon, it will be a publication so you’ll be writing a plain English summary.