RESOURCES: Plain language

RESOURCES: Plain language

Using plain language means writing in a way that your intended audiences can immediately find, understand, and use your messages and information. It’s not about “dumbing down” your message but making sure that you are communicating effectively with your target readers.

Plain language is relevant, even (especially?) for academic and professional writing. There are great resources out there to help you write in plain language. Here are some to get you started—and the rest is practice 🙂

(If you’re not fully convinced that plain language principles can also improve academic writing, take a look at these articles.)



  • Cutts, Martin. Oxford Guide to Plain English. Oxford University Press, 2020. If you want one book on plain English, this is the one. Clearly organized and fun to read, it’s one I keep at hand. Highly recommended!
  • Gowers, Ernest A., and Rebecca Gowers. Plain Words. Penguin Books, 2014. Updated by Rebecca Gowers, the original book was written by Sir Ernest over 60 years ago but is (sadly?) still relevant as ever. The examples will keep you chuckling. (The 1954 version is in the public domain in some countries.)

See also my favorite books on writing and presenting.

Other useful sites and videos


“The Right to Understand.” Sandra Fisher-Martins at TEDxO’Porto, March 2011. (It’s in Portugese but transcripts are available in 14 languages.)
“Demand to Understand: How Plain Language Makes Life Simpler.” Deborah Bosley at TEDxCharlotte. Not sure of the event date; the video is from 2015.

Training (free)

Here are a few free online resources to help you practice plain language.

Paid courses

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Plus: Explore my free downloads and connect with me on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Image by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pixabay

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