How to write in Plain English

As a business, we get many requests from clients wanting to know how to make their information accessible for Deaf people.

Due to the grammatical differences between British Sign Language (BSL) and English, it can often be difficult for Deaf people to access information.

So, the helpful team at terptree have put together some guidance about writing in plain English.

What is plain English?

Plain English is a way of writing that is easier for people to understand. By practicing a few easy rules, you can write in a way that is easier for the reader to understand and helps to ensure that your message is understood by the reader. There is a campaign for Plain English and they have many free guides for improving your writing. This can be found on their website,

Why should you aim to write in plain English?

Writing in plain English is good practice regardless of your audience. It is especially important for people who are Deaf, whose first language is British Sign Language (BSL) and not usually English.

It does not just benefit Deaf people but good, clear English benefits everyone. Many people have hidden disabilities like dyslexia and may find large chunks of awkward text difficult to read. Additionally those with visual impairments would prefer plain English and those for whom English is a second language.

How do you write in plain English?

The guides on the website have a lot of information about how to replace difficult words and how you can improve your grammar to make your English easier to read. 

Here are a few easy pointers to start with to make your writing easier to read:

Keep it simple:

  • Use simple sentences
  • Don’t use jargon or overly difficult words
  • Try not to use acronyms 
  • Be clear and concise

Know what you want to say and structure it well:

  • Keep it short – have a few simple important points that you want to get across
  • Use a well-structured document with clear points with only one or two per paragraph
  • Try bullet points and other formatting to separate points and make text easier to read where necessary

Think about your reader:

  • Are they Deaf?
  • Do they use English as a second language?
  • What do you know about them and their level of education or understanding?
  • Write in a way that will be easier for them to understand

The easier your English is to read the more likely you will communicate your message. This causes less stress and saves time for both you and your reader which is something that can only be a good thing!

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