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Tools and strategies for writing in simple language

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These slides support a session run at Oxford University IT Learning Centre. It is posted on http://digiknow.sbsblogs.co.uk.

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Tools and strategies for writing in simple language

  1. 1. Tools to help with writing Simple language
  2. 2. http://metaphorhacker.net/2012/09/the-complexities-of-simple-what-simple-language-proponents-should-know-about-linguistics
  3. 3. Why ? Speed of reading Accessibility International impact 3
  4. 4. http://blog.boomerangapp.com/2016/02/7-tips-for-getting-more-responses-to-your-emails-with-data
  5. 5. What makes language simple?
  6. 6. No perfect communication
  7. 7. Even with arrows
  8. 8. Which way will the lift go?
  9. 9. Which way will you turn the wheel of your car?
  10. 10. Which way will you turn your wheel now?
  11. 11. What makes text easy to read?
  12. 12. How ? Formatting Structure Language 12
  13. 13. I wanted to write you a short letter
  14. 14. I wanted to write you a short letter but I didn’t have time.
  15. 15. I wanted to write you a short letter but I didn’t have time. So I wrote you a long one instead.
  16. 16. … or Franklin or Pascal or Locke or somebody else. I wanted to write you a short letter but I didn’t have time. So I wrote you a long one instead. Mark Twain
  17. 17. Simple and clear writing is not natural. It is harder and more time consuming than complicated writing.
  18. 18. Bad advice
  19. 19. Avoid passives Be informal / write conversationally Avoid redundancy Avoid jargon - Use simple words Use short 'English' words Write short texts
  20. 20. Don’t avoid passives too much The School was founded in 1996. They founded the School in 1996.
  21. 21. Don’t be too informal You must confirm your attendance. Why don’t you let us know that you’re coming.
  22. 22. Redundancy can reduce errors next Tuesday (24 Dec) next Tuesday
  23. 23. Redundancy can aid comprehension Tuesday, 24 Dec 24/12
  24. 24. Simple words don’t always make things clear Attendance will be taken. We will check who showed up.
  25. 25. Short English words don’t always make things better. We will provide accommodation. We will put you up. We will find you a place to stay.
  26. 26. Which is simpler? get acquire
  27. 27. onlineteachersuk.com/phrasal-verbs-get
  28. 28. onlineteachersuk.com/phrasal-verbs-get
  29. 29. Non-native speakers will not always find short and easy words as easy to understand as you think.
  30. 30. Good advice
  31. 31. Formatting Space Structure Guides / Graphics Structure Important first, background last Clear outline Shorter sentences Language Limit politeness Avoid embedding and clusters Don't take out too much Tools Test readability Listen to what you wrote Get help with editing
  32. 32. Who does it well?
  33. 33. Making things more readable with formatting
  34. 34. Chunking makes texts more readable
  35. 35. Word Navigation feature is great for outlines
  36. 36. Make sure you use headings
  37. 37. Mindmaps help with chunking, structure, outline
  38. 38. Tips for more readable structure
  39. 39.  Structure Important first, background last Show outline Shorter sentences
  40. 40. 51 https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7051713/British- Steel-brink-collapse-putting-25-000-jobs-risk.html Start with an outline
  41. 41. 52 https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7051713/British- Steel-brink-collapse-putting-25-000-jobs-risk.html First things first
  42. 42. 53 https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7051713/British- Steel-brink-collapse-putting-25-000-jobs-risk.html Background last
  43. 43. 54 Short paragraphs can help you get away with more complicated sentences
  44. 44. F-shaped scanning pattern © Nielsen Norman Group 2017 https://www.nngroup.com/articles/f-shaped- pattern-reading-web-content/
  45. 45. “F-shaped scanning pattern is bad for users and businesses: it means that users may skip important content simply because it appears on the right side of the page.” https://www.nngroup.com/articles/f-shaped- pattern-reading-web-content/ (Kara Pernice, 2017)
  46. 46. https://www.nngroup.com/articles/f-shaped- pattern-reading-web-content/ (Kara Pernice, 2017)
  47. 47. How to use Hemingway app to simplify language
  48. 48. Readability scores
  49. 49. Check readability
  50. 50. 62 Do experts pass the test?
  51. 51. 63 About us by Plain English Campaign plainenglish.co.uk/ about-us.html
  52. 52. 64 Complexities of simple by Dominik Lukeš metaphorhacker.net
  53. 53. 65 Plain Language Is for Everyone, Even Experts by Hoa Loranger, 2017 https://www.nngroup. com/articles/plain- language-experts/
  54. 54. Tips for simpler language
  55. 55. Welcome to this site We are very pleased to have the opportunity Avoid too much politeness …
  56. 56. …but only in context
  57. 57. This is might be a useful tool If it’s not too much trouble Limit hedges and indirectness
  58. 58. Bad: "You may like to register by clicking here." Good: "Register here“ Better: Register Strip out unnecessary language
  59. 59. Less good: “Your attendance is important." OK: “It is important that you come.” OK: “Please come. It is really important” Verbs over nouns
  60. 60. Bad: operations review evaluation task force Less bad: task force for the evaluation of our operations review Better: task force evaluating our review of operations Beware of noun clusters
  61. 61. Good: '10:30 - Swim in the lake’ Bad: '10:30 - Swimming in the lake’ Good: 'Achieve objectives’ Bad: 'To achieve objectives’ Good: 'Explain’ Bad: 'Explanation Of...' Simple imperatives in lists of activities
  62. 62. Limit complex embedding and if statements Less good: The man we met yesterday was a famous artist. OK: We met a man yesterday. And he was famous artist. Good: We met a famous artist yesterday.
  63. 63. Don't strip out linking phrases Good: "John didn't eat because he didn't like soup." OK: "John didn't like soup. So he didn't eat." Less good: "John didn't eat. He didn't like soup."
  64. 64. Think about when to use nouns vs pronouns Jane was late. She overslept, then she missed the bus. This is the fifth time in a month she did something like that. Her boss would be angry. So Jane / she thought of an excuse.
  65. 65. Avoid too much repetition, but not all of it Jane was late. She overslept, then she missed the bus. This is the fifth time in a month she did something like that. Her boss would be angry. So Jane / she thought of an excuse.
  66. 66. Readability
  67. 67. What is readability?
  68. 68. What typical level of education is required to understand a text?
  69. 69. Aim for GCSE (or less) Grade 9 – 11
  70. 70. Note: 14-year old reading level does not mean, 14-year old content.
  71. 71. Measured by: length of sentences length of words frequency of words
  72. 72. But don’t game the readability scores.
  73. 73. https://medium.com/@bloghands/tips-and-tools-for-improving-your-content-readability-score-eed82e2ffa87
  74. 74. Readability tools
  75. 75. textalyser.net
  76. 76. textalyser.net
  77. 77. Don’t trust URL analysis
  78. 78. Word choice
  79. 79. Up Goer Five by XKCD CC BY NC https://xkcd.com/1133
  80. 80. Up Goer Five by XKCD CC BY NC https://xkcd.com/1133
  81. 81. corpus.byu.edu/iweb
  82. 82. corpus.byu.edu/iweb
  83. 83. corpus.byu.edu/iweb
  84. 84. Grammar, spelling, style
  85. 85. Editing tools
  86. 86. Listen to what you wrote
  87. 87. Listen to what you wrote
  88. 88. Readability in Word
  89. 89. All spelling errors must be corrected or ignored
  90. 90. Word online has different features
  91. 91. Word online has different features
  92. 92. People over tools
  93. 93. Writing / editing buddies / beta readers Agree set of principles Agree targets Use checklists Constructive Feedback rules
  94. 94. Careful that you don’t end up speaking to an internal audience to tick boxes.
  95. 95. Ask online for help
  96. 96. Be careful who you ask. People who write well often don’t know how they do it. And beautiful prose is not always easy to read.
  97. 97. More on digiknow.sbsblogs.co.uk Thank you This presentation was created by Dominik Lukeš and it is made available under Creative Commons Attribution license

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