Plain English for managers

It’s just not enough for companies to send only operational staff on plain English training. Leaders and managers must attend too so that they can properly support company-wide plain English initiatives.  (Guest post by Simplified business writing trainer, Melissa Davidson)

Best results start by training top-down

As with most new skills, practice makes writing … well, close to perfect.

My role as a trainer is to explain the benefits of using plain English and give delegates techniques for taking their writing from ‘blah’ to ‘aha!’

But all I do is facilitate the light-bulb moment. It’s up to delegates to keep the light on by taking what they’ve learnt and putting it into practice.

Delegates have the skills – and the will – to improve their writing

What’s encouraging is that most delegates are enthusiastic about doing this. They understand the immense benefits of writing in plain English. They’ve seen where they can improve. They’re confident they have the tools they need to be more effective writers. All they have to do is use them – to go forth and simplify!

Unfortunately, the light bulb dims when I hear delegates say things like:

  • ‘The people who check my writing will just change it back to the old way.’
  • ‘We can’t do this because of how our templates are set up.’
  • ‘I just don’t know if I can get away with writing like this in my department.’

Plain English for managers: Managers need to encourage delegates to use those skills

Of course, we can’t say for sure that delegates will be forced to go back to writing ‘the old way’ once the training course is over. But they’ll only be motivated to try out their new skills if they believe they will be supported, rather than opposed, by their managers and colleagues.

Managers need to assure delegates that they won’t get their documents back with ‘all the jargon back in’; that they can develop templates with informative headings and reader-friendly structures; and that they can use plain words even in formal communication.

To do this, managers need to understand and appreciate the principles of plain English themselves – not just how to write in plain English, but why it’s important to do so.