Plain English Writing Training

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Plain English is writing something in a way that allows the reader to understand it at first reading, and in the way you want them to.

It’s clear, direct, uses as few words as needed, and avoids ambiguity, verbiage and complex sentences. To communicate successfully and clearly, you don’t need to be Shakespeare. But you must have a sincere desire to inform.

Our plain English workshops are a must for organisations that want their staff to write in plain English. And they’re done in person or online using digital training materials, making it easy to join from home or the office.

Here’s a few examples of our plain English writing and editing:

Before: The most important action that you can take is to always practise good hand hygiene. There are a range of steps you can take to practise good hand hygiene and diminish your exposure and hence your chances of getting ill with coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

After: Good hand hygiene is crucial in avoiding COVID-19. You just have to follow a few simple steps.

Before: The insured person may cancel the policy by giving the Company written notice of cancellation. The serving of the notice is sufficient notice and the effective date of cancellation in the notice will be the end of the policy term.

After: To cancel your policy, write to the Company outlining when you want it cancelled.

Before: Once your patent, trademark or design is registered here in Australia, you will be able to use that patent, trademark or design to the exclusion of all others in Australia.

After: Once your patent, trademark or design is registered in Australia, no one else in Australia can use it.

Before: As per your formal request for a review of your new retail lease on May 7 we must bring your attention to the fact that despite the significant amount of time that has elapsed since you made this request we are yet to secure a copy of your original agreement which we will need to conduct this review. In mind of the fact that the deadline for resigning is imminent we would esteem it greatly if you would determine the location of, and furnish us with, the original lease agreement forthwith so that we may review as directed by you as soon as possible.

After: On May 7 you asked us to review your new retail lease but we’re yet to get a copy. With the deadline for re-signing fast approaching, we’ll need it as soon as possible.

Our plain English training is tailored to meet your writers’ needs, which we identify through discussions with you and by studying examples of their writing in advance. The workshops are engaging and participative, with practical work, quizzes and group work.

We are experienced in providing in-house, professional plain English courses for federal, state, and local government bodies, law firms, insurance companies and banks. These organisations trust us to pitch our plain English training at an appropriate level, to respect and develop the existing knowledge and skills of their staff, and to provide useable writing and editing tips and techniques.

To ensure the lessons are not forgotten, attendees take away our plain English tips flyer for their desk.

Our plain English training is:

Proven to work: Our training workshops have been improving government writing since 2000 with consistently good results.

Now your staff can benefit from our experience.

Hands on: When your people attend one of our workshops, their writing confidence will grow immediately, and they will write better from day one.

Interactive: APM’s principal and lead trainer, Andrew Pegler, is a highly experienced communicator.

He skilfully encourages attendees to contribute, get involved and learn about new and better ways to write. His emphasis will be on learning and then doing, by completing exercises specially designed around your required outcomes.

Tailored: We will customise the workshops to your needs, to best reflect the everyday writing challenges your staff face.

General aims and benefits of our plain English training:

  • Increased staff efficiency because the planning of written work improves
  • Staff producing clear, well-punctuated, well-structured writing that fulfils its purpose
  • Reduced costs as staff no longer work with unclear, poorly structured content
  • Staff able to identify good writing and rectify sub-standard work
  • Staff able to decide when writing is ‘fit to go’ and, therefore, when to avoid unnecessary alterations

Our face-to-face and one-on-one training and workshops have been a must for organisations that want their staff to write in plain English. Andrew Pegler’s extensive knowledge, experience and qualifications in communications and writing training, and qualifications in design, delivery, assessment and evaluation of adult learning programs, have seen us train countless staff since 2000.

APM’s eight plain English principles form the spine of our workshops.

Around them, we wrap numerous practical exercises including group plain English editing exercises (learning by doing is crucial!).

With virtual training, breakout rooms and other channels, we provide the perfect environment for individual interaction or collective discussions and exercises. Regular breaks ensure everyone stays engaged.

To ensure the lessons are not forgotten, attendees take away a 600gsm copy of our plain English tips flyer for their desk.

Content of a typical workshop:

We take the journey of plain English from the French/English legal doublet to Einstein’s theory of simplicity. From Churchill’s demand for plain English during the Battle of Britain to the famous musings of George Orwell’s and today’s global shift towards plain English. More specifically we examine:

  • What plain English is and how to recognise it
  • APM’s eight plain English principles
  • Practical skills staff can apply
  • How to get to the point, quickly
  • A refresher on the basics of structure, sentence length, everyday English, punctuation and grammar
  • Why plain English is important
  • Writing myths explained and exposed
  • Numerous individual plain English editing exercises
  • How to write for specific audiences
  • A close examination of ‘before and after’ samples using a mix of client-supplied examples and APM’s work

APM believes strongly in empirical learning and incorporates multiple practical exercises like plain English editing ‘before’ copy, grammar revision tests, passive/active voice transitions, removing unnecessary words, workshopping audiences, and more. Consequently, around half of the time, staff will be applying themselves to plain English editing exercises based on real life examples.

Resources or after-workshop support provided to attendees:

Having a single point of contact for the entire annual report is more efficient. No need to juggle different service providers — a sole contact ensures all parties involved in the process understand each other’s roles and responsibilities and are equipped to deal with unforeseen problems. You’ll waste no time:

  • For full day workshops, Andrew Pegler will be freely available to all attendees for two weeks following each workshop. He can further discuss and clarify matters relating to plain English and also provide reasonable assistance and guidance on writing tasks.
  • All attendees will receive a graphic designed, printed 600gsm version of APM’s eight tips for plain English to keep at their desk. Made from high-quality paper stock, these thick fliers will endure regular use as they are taken from workplace to workplace.

Workshop feedback:

Thanks for your plain English workshop Andrew. Your 8 tips have taken hold. The Sydney Team at ACIL Allen now write with greater clarity.

Jan Paul van Moort, Executive Director

I recently attended one of Andrew’s courses ‘Writing in Plain English’ and learnt a lot of practical tools when writing public facing material. Key considerations I now apply to my writing include:

  • Writing more succinctly while retaining the message
  • Avoiding technical jargon people won’t understand, and substituting plain English for buzz words
  • Making what I write more accessible to a broad audience

I’d have no hesitation in recommending Andrew’s courses to anyone interested in writing more clearly and concisely.

Tom Everitt, Level Crossing Removal Authority

Andrew’s plain English workshop for Bespoke provided practical and informative training on using language that speaks more directly to people and is therefore more effective, saves confusion and builds trust.

Although plain English is now the accepted standard, Andrew’s session showed us all there is still room for improvement in every aspect of our communication. Andrew ran through his 8 rules for plain English legal writing and used real-world before and after examples followed by a session that gave attendees the chance to plain English edit real examples of legalese. Andrew tailored the workshop to reflect our Bespoke style guide, making the session all the more relevant for our lawyers. Throughout the workshop Andrew encouraged interaction and engaged in robust debates on everything from using commas to redefining ‘force majeure’. The engaging and useful session left us all as better legal communicators and I’d be happy to recommend his workshop to other law firms interested in plain English.

Viv Lister, Associate Principal, Group Head – Trade, Transport & Regulatory at Bespoke Law

Andrew’s plain English workshop was a great help for our team.

His tips for plain English writing gave us clarity on what is over-writing, the importance of considering your audience and the power of simplicity in cutting through. I’m happy to recommend Andrew’s plain English workshops to any organisation seeking to deliver clearer, more effective writing.

Rivkah Nissim – Project Manager, Inside Policy

It was refreshing to be taught a business writing course by some who took a lot of time to take an independent look at our written work.

Andrew’s comments and criticisms were constructive. I found him approachable and his enthusiasm for plain English is very motivating.

Victorian Government department

We learnt that by trying to fit too much into a document you actually end up confusing people. And that defeats the basic purpose of communication. Andrew’s 8 tips for plain English are easy to digest and bring a clarity to our writing that benefits everyone interested in our activities. Thanks Andrew!

EPA Victoria

Typical syllabus for 1/2-day plain English workshops:

Session 1:

  • Plain English business writing punctuation refresher
  • What is plain English business writing and how do you recognise it?

Coffee/tea break

Session 2:

The eight golden rules for plain English business writing

1. Consider your audience

2. Keep it simple

3. If you have to look up a word’s meaning, don’t use it

4. Use the active voice

5. Don’t use jargon if there’s a plain English equivalent

6. Get your punctuation right

7. Have one idea per sentence

8. If it’s not crucial, delete it

Session 3:

  • Examples of gobbledegook officialese, legalese and bureaucratese
  • Group plain English editing exercises

Typical syllabus for 1-day plain English workshops:

Session 1: 9:15 – 10:30am

  • The journey of plain English
  • Plain English business writing punctuation refresher
  • What is plain English business writing and how do you recognise it?

Coffee/tea break 10:30 – 10:40

Session 2: 10:40 – 1:30pm

The eight golden rules for plain English business writing:

1. Consider your audience

2. Keep it simple

3. If you have to look up a word’s meaning, don’t use it

4. Use the active voice

5. Don’t use jargon if there’s a plain English equivalent

6. Get your punctuation right

7. Have one idea per sentence

8. If it’s not crucial, delete it

Lunch 1:30– 2pm

Session 3: 2 – 4:30pm

  • Examples of gobbledegook officialese, legalese and bureaucratese
  • Group plain English editing exercises (learning by doing!)

Typical syllabus for 2-day plain English workshops:

Day 1

Session 1: 9:15 – 10:30am

  • The fabulous journey of plain English
  • Punctuation refresher
  • Your writing style guide refresher
  • Practical skills staff can apply to written communication
  • What is plain English, how do you recognise it and why is it important for you and your clients?
  • When to use i.e., or e.g., or that is, for example
  • How to structure paragraphs to shape your message/ideas
  • How to avoid corporate speak, weasel words and jargon
  • How to use the inverted pyramid style – put the most important information first or it could be missed

Coffee/tea break

Session 2: 11 – 1:30pm

The eight golden rules for plain English business writing (interspersed with plain English editing exercises):

1. Consider your audience

2. Keep it simple (how to remove the unnecessary so the necessary can speak)

3. If you have to look up a word’s meaning, don’t use it!

4. Use the active voice

5. Don’t use jargon if there’s a plain English equivalent

6. Get your punctuation right

7. Have one idea per sentence

8. If it’s not crucial, delete it

Lunch 1:30 – 2pm

Session 3: 2 – 4:30pm

  • Continuation of the eight golden rules for plain English writing
  • More practical skills staff can apply to written communication
  • How to write like we speak i.e., plain, straightforward
  • How to make written communications as long as they need to be but no longer
  • Management are time-poor. Be kind. Only include important information in reports, emails etc
  • How to work out what attachments to include in an email
  • How punctuation can make your writing stronger
  • Examples of gobbledegook, officialese, legalese, bureaucratese
  • Group plain English editing exercises (learning by doing!) and individual discussions
  • Summary and group discussion

Day 2

Session 1: 9:15 – 10:30am

  • Review of previous day
  • Group discussion
  • Further practical skills staff can apply to written communication
  • More examples of gobbledegook, officialese, legalese, bureaucratese
  • More group plain English editing exercises and individual discussions – (learning by doing!)

Coffee/tea break 10:30 – 11am

Session 1: 9:15 – 10:30am

  • More practical skills staff can apply to written communication
  • How to proofread
  • How to take a sec to think what you want to say, then be able to say it as simply as you can
  • How the style guide can help you be consistent
  • Group discussion
  • When to define terms and acronyms

Lunch 1:30 – 2pm

Session 3: 2 – 4:30pm

  • Punctuation, grammar, passive and active voice exercises
  • More examples of gobbledegook officialese, legalese, bureaucratese
  • More group plain English editing exercises and individual discussions
  • Summary and group discussion

APM’s past clients include

EPA Victoria