Why use plain English in marketing comms?
Posted by Jen Derrick on 3 August 2023

Effective marketing comms is the cornerstone of any successful business. In today’s fast-paced world, where attention spans are shrinking and our brains are constantly battling with ‘information overload’, it’s ever more crucial to convey ideas clearly and concisely. 

One way to achieve this is simply by writing in plain English. It’s a key communication technique the Hey Me team swears by, and forever preach to our clients. Below we share some of the marketing communications strategies we use to help you write clearly, in a way that resonates with your target audiences.  

What is plain English & who needs to understand it? 

The Oxford Dictionary defines “plain English” as follows: 

“Language that is clear, simple, and easily understood by the average person, avoiding the use of technical terminology, complex vocabulary, and convoluted sentence structures.” 

Jargon does the opposite. When jargon is used without explanation or inappropriately, it can confuse the reader. Often jargon is used unknowingly in business. We don’t necessarily realise what we’re writing might not make sense, and this is because we become accustomed to our own pool of vocabulary.  

But readers who are not familiar with your company’s everyday language may struggle to grasp the intended meaning, leading to misinterpretation. That’s why it’s always important to bear the audience you’re writing for in mind, which leads us to our next point.  

Know your audience 

Photo of desk with notebooks and Hey Me business cards.

Before you begin writing, it’s essential to consider your target audience. Are you addressing experts in a particular field or a general audience? Try to envisage what your target reader looks like and their personality – what sort of newspapers do they read? Why would they want to read this article? Tailoring your language and tone to suit the needs of your readers will greatly enhance readability. Avoid jargon, technical terms, and acronyms that may confuse or alienate your audience. 

Simplify sentence structure 

Complex sentence structures can hinder understanding. Keep it simple by using shorter sentences and breaking down complex ideas into smaller, digestible chunks. Long sentences, on the other hand, can obscure the main message. Be direct, clear, and concise in your writing to keep people on-site.  

Use everyday language 

Plain English relies on familiar words that are commonly used in everyday conversations. Choose simple and straightforward vocabulary over complex terminology. If a technical term is necessary, ensure that you explain it clearly in plain English afterwards. It’s equally important that everyone in your team understands what your business does so that when they speak to customers, brand messaging is consistent across the board. It’s also worth bearing in mind that your content needs to be accessible to as many readers as possible. This is also important from an SEO perspective, because accessible websites are easier for search engines to crawl. 

Write active sentences 

Active voice injects clarity into your writing. It emphasises the subject performing the action, making it easier for readers to follow your ideas. Passive voice, on the other hand, can be vague and convoluted. For example, compare “The company approved the proposal” (active) to “The proposal was approved by the company” (passive). The active sentence is more direct and engaging. 

Organise your thoughts 

A well-structured piece of writing is clear to understand for all readers. Start with a clear introduction that outlines the main points you will discuss. Use headings, subheadings, and bullet points to break up your content into logical sections. Each paragraph should focus on a single idea, and transitions between paragraphs should be smooth. This will help your readers to navigate your text effortlessly. 

Be visual 

Where appropriate, use visuals such as graphs, charts, or illustrations to support your text. Visual elements can simplify complex information and enhance understanding. Remember to provide clear captions and explanations for the visuals to ensure they are fully accessible to all readers. 

Proofread and edit 

Once you have completed your first draft, take the time to proofread and edit your work. Look for any instances of unclear or convoluted language, grammar errors, or awkward phrasing. Try to seek feedback from others to gain fresh perspectives on your writing. By refining and polishing your work, you can ensure that your message shines through clearly. 

Hey Me laptop, notebooks, business cards on desks.

Writing in plain English is an invaluable skill that promotes effective marketing communications. By considering your audience, simplifying sentence structure and using everyday language, you can easily master the art of writing in plain English. Remember, clarity and accessibility should always be at the forefront of your writing approach.  

For more tips on how to write in an everyday language, take a look at our article: How to stop writing in technical jargon. Or, if you’d like Hey Me to support you with writing in plain English, we offer ongoing marketing communications support, as well as an online course and messaging workshop options that will help you to write in an impactful way that resonates with your audience.  

“Since day one, Amy herself has fit seamlessly into our team, understanding the message we want to convey and the audiences we want to reach. Her upfront audit was invaluable in helping us internally hone our common voice, which has demonstrated itself in the consistency of the content we put out as a brand and as individuals within the company. Behind the scenes, Amy has instinctively adopted our internal communication methods (Slack, SharePoint) and works closely with our in-house graphic design team to ensure our graphics and copy are in sync.” Lucy Prior MBE - previously from 3Squared 2021
“I saved so much time after implementing a more structured approach which has given me the opportunity to focus on creating more content and work more closely with my clients. Amy and her team are easy to deal with and are quick to provide valuable solutions. I would not hesitate to work with Hey Me again in the future.” Karen Duncan - Lanehead Coniston
“I met Amy a few years ago at a Young Rail Professionals event and was able to provide her with an opportunity to manage the comms on a major alliance which she flourished at. Soon after she started, Marie came along to provide HR support across the multiple businesses. It seems only natural that being as dynamic and knowledge as they are, they are looking to work together on this new venture, which I am sure will be a huge success.” Karen Duncan - Lanehead Coniston
“I saved so much time after implementing a more structured approach which has given me the opportunity to focus on creating more content and work more closely with my clients. Amy and her team are easy to deal with and are quick to provide valuable solutions. I would not hesitate to work with Hey Me again in the future.” Karen Duncan - Lanehead Coniston

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