Posted by: episystechpubs | October 10, 2014

Editor’s Corner: Plain English

Today I am going to talk about JHA’s standards for technical communication. If you do not work for JHA, you will not be able to access the following link. Don’t panic, I’m including the standards in this email.

The JHA Style Guide for Technical Communication and Training has a section dedicated to plain English and plain English standards. The following information is taken from that marvelous document.

Plain English is a clear and concise style of writing that is written in the proper tone with the reader in mind.

Plain English is:

· Faster to write

· Faster to read

· Easier to understand

Plain English is not:

· Childish writing

· Amateur writing

· A means of reducing the length or changing the meaning of your material

· A means of banning words

· A rigid set of words with grammar rules

Not only does writing in plain English help to standardize our company’s documentation, it improves the readability of our documentation.

Since it’s Friday, I’ll leave you with a few plain English standards from the JHA Style Guide for Technical Communication and Training that JHA employees should follow when writing documentation. I’ll fill you in on the rest of plain English standards next week.

· Keep your sentences as short as possible

· Prefer the active voice over the passive voice

· Always use the active imperative in instructions; this includes instructional portions of paragraphs as well as steps

o Incorrect: The parameter should be set to No.

o Correct: Set this parameter to No.

· Avoid nominalizations

o Incorrect: Begin report generation.

o Correct: Generate the report.

· Use positive language when possible

o Incorrect: Do not delete any letter that may still be in use.

o Correct: Keep the letters that you may still use.

· Use lists when appropriate

o Incorrect: The four Dashboard tabs are Financial Analysis, Operations Analysis, Performance Analysis, and Risk Analysis.

o Correct: The four Dashboard tabs are:

§ Financial Analysis

§ Operations Analysis

§ Performance Analysis

§ Risk Analysis

· Do not use different words to describe or refer to the same thing

o Incorrect: Number indicates the number of the option and defines where the setting appears on the menu.

o Correct: Number indicates the number of the option and defines where the option appears on the menu.

Jackie Solano | Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.542.6711 | Extension: 766711

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