Plain English editing (or re-writing) can cause discomfort, because it often reveals hidden weaknesses in the original document. But companies willing to accept the treatment and put in any work necessary will produce a document that shines. By turning existing, long-winded and inaccessible text into clear writing, plain English can shine an uncomfortably bright light on flaws in the original content that would otherwise remain unnoticed. The reality is that in many businesses, a lot of very talented and experienced professionals can spend an awful lot of time doing fantastic research and work only to produce a document that fails dismally to do them credit. Why do all that work if the final report, which may be so critical, simply isn’t fit for purpose? Companies and organisations are increasingly recognising that the reports they produce need to read clearly. They recognise that the text needs to be in plain English.
The author is not the reader.
Putting the text through the plain English editing process can polish text until it shines with clarity. That’s great if the bones of the report, the facts and figures and findings etc, are already solid. But sometimes, the editing process itself can throw up uncomfortable questions. It reveals flaws in original document, highlights waffle, questions in-house jargon, and draws attention to unsubstantiated claims. And that’s when a businesses’ true grit shows.
‘Your editing highlighted the fact that there were holes in just about every paragraph,’ one client told me. ‘The plain English showed us just how many gaps we need to fill before we can send the report to our client.’