10 Guidelines and Analysis10 Guidelines and Analysis

Here are the basic guidelines for writing easy-to-read English.

  1. Define target audience
    Identify your target audience before you write. If it is for a general audience, you need to avoid jargon as much as possible and choose words which are plain and easy-to-understand.
  2. Write important information first
    Write what is most important first. It is called the Inverted Pyramid style. On the other hand, a common Japanese narrative style is the kishotenketsu (introduction, development, twist and conclusion) style. The most important information comes at the end with this style. Remember to bring important information at the beginning in English writing.
  3. Use the active voice
    Choose the active voice over the passive voice. Frequent use of the passive voice makes writing verbose, unclear and lifeless.
  4. Use strong verbs
    Strong verbs are a word which is precise, concrete and descriptive. They engage readers.
    Before After
    We made a determination…
    We determined…
    Carry out a reform
  5. Choose shorter and simpler words
    Use shorter and simpler words with less syllables.
    Before After
    utilize use
    terminate end
    in the event that if
  6. Write in positive (Avoid negative)
    Japanese language often uses negative forms, but English language prefers positives forms.
    Before After
    no fewer than at least
    has not yet attained is under/still
    not accept reject
    not able unable
  7. Use short sentences
    Readers find that sentences of 17- 20 words are easy to read. You should consider shortening a longer sentence into two or more sentences.
  8. Avoid jargon
    If your audience is a general audience, it is important to avoid jargon and technical terms. Create a glossary if necessary, together with the material.
  9. Keep the subject, verb, and object close together
    The natural word order of English speakers is subject-verb-object. When this order is interrupted by long modifiers and phrases, flow of reading is also interrupted and the readers find it hard to capture the meaning. You may need to write another sentence to avoid such modifiers. You can also consider presenting the information in a table.
  10. Choose the right design
    You can use headings to catch busy reader’s attention. Use bullets or a table to present complex information to ease reading.

(Source: “A Plain English Handbook,” U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 1998)

To write in Plain English, you need to set the right level of vocabulary and technical knowledge for your audience. Then, choose the appropriate words and verbs to communicate in the most effective way. Once you have finished writing, use the guidelines again to review it. This will ascertain readability. These guidelines will help you write in Plain English

English Readability Analyzer(英文診断)