Kung Fu Copywriting Secrets: Plain English


Weirdly, the Plain English Campaign, which kind of seem like kind of a far-out Daily Mail/Daily Express
complaining-about-things type organization, generally — you know that’s kind of how
you may perceive them — their guide on their website on how to write in plain
English is really good, and its really useful. Now plain English is not an end
in itself but it’s a good starting point. And if you go to their website and go
through all the stuff where they’re talking about drivel and you know horrible words
like that and just go to the how-to guide — there’s a PDF on there and it’s really
useful. And one of the things it says is — because it specifically
doesn’t talk in terms of right and wrong. It talks in terms of “here are things and
this kind of writing is appropriate for this context, and that kind of writing is
appropriate for that context.” So, for example, one of the things it
would do is it talks about nominalised words. So, generally: nouns that have ‘shun’ at
the end like ‘nomination’ or ‘conclusion’, and things like that. What they say is those words aren’t wrong,
however — if you’re using those words just be aware that the sentence you’re
writing it in is probably more complicated than it needs to be. So, you know:
“They took a vote at the conclusion of the meeting.” Yeah, you could just say “end” or “after the
meeting” or whatever. Just a nice little tip. It’s full of little tips
and nuggets like that that nominalised verbs are a flag that
your sentences may be quite formal. [Where would you find the how-to, did you say?] If you Google ‘Plain English Campaign’ and
I think there’s a whole thing about guides there — it’s a little PDF document. Another thing it says is it talks about
active and passive sentence structure. So: active sentence structure “David bored the crowd senseless” Passive sentence structure: “The crowd was bored by David” Active sentence structure is a lot more
direct, punchy, usually preferable — but not always. Because sometimes it’s polite to use the
passive sentence structure because it softens things. So, instead of saying “We noticed you
haven’t paid your bill” you might say “We noticed this bill has
not been paid.” It’s just nicer, and the nice
thing about the Plain English Campaign is it does make distinctions like that.
It kind of goes “In this kind of setting” — it gives that specific
example — “In this kind of setting you’d use this phrase, that kind of setting you’d use
the other one.” Hello! If you like copywriting videos you’ll find another one here. Alternatively, if you’d rather listen to
a podcast, you can find one over there. George!

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