Simple words help you express your message clearly. Too many complex words are like hurdles in a race, slowing readers down.
Replacing complex words with simpler words lets your readers concentrate on your content. Using simple and familiar words where possible doesn't insult your readers' intelligence but emphasizes clarity rather than formality. Save longer or complex words for when they are essential.
Foreign words, jargon, and abbreviations may detract from the clarity of your writing. Readers often skip over terms they don't understand, hoping to get their meaning from the rest of the sentence. Readers complain about jargon more than any other writing fault. Every profession, trade, and organization has its own specialized terms. While we all complain about jargon, everyone writes it. We hate everyone else's jargon, but we love our own.
Plain language does not ban jargon and other specialist terms. But you need to understand your readers and match your language to their needs.
External links are shown with a "".
This lengthy, alphabetized list of simple words and phrases includes complex and overused words you often see in government writing, as well as suggested plainer substitutes.
Lists of made-up words and abstract words from real government documents that will befuddle your reader.
Advice and essays
Keep it Jargon Free, some advice about jargon from Nick Wright. The page includes lists of common jargon and management-speak.
Nick Wright also wrote this discussion of hidden verbs.
Want more advice about abstract, complex, and foreign words? You can get it here.
Plain language strongly prefers using "must" for a requirement, rather than the ambiguous "shall." This page gives you the opinions on "shall" compared to "must" from three different sources.
Dr. Bill Lampton, a communication expert, wrote this short essay about using simple words.