Plain Language Clear and Simple

Flashcards

Step 1: Click Next button to see the guideline or example.
Step 2: Click Next button again to see the explanation or suggested Plain Language solution.
Repeat Steps 1 and 2. Total 114 items.
Think about Your Choice of Words

Use Simple, Everyday Words

Use simple, familiar words instead of unfamiliar words.

Plain language writing involves expressing yourself the way you speak. When you talk to someone, you make an effort to be understood. So when you write, imagine that someone is asking you what you mean. Explain your idea using clear and familiar words.
Here are a few examples of simple words and phrases you might substitute for less familiar or multi-syllable words:

accomplish - do
ascertain - find out
disseminate - send out, distribute
endeavour - try
expedite - hasten, speed up
facilitate - make easier, help
formulate - work out, devise, form
in lieu of - instead of
locality - place
optimum - best, greatest, most
strategize - plan
utilize - use
Cut Out Unnecessary Words

Cut out unnecessary words or replace a group of words with one word to make your writing clearer.
Here is a sample list of some alternative words for common, wordy expressions:

with regard to - about
by means of - by
in the event that - if
until such time - until
during such time - while
in respect of - for
in view of the fact - because
on the part of - by
subsequent to - after
under the provisions of - under
with a view to - to
it would appear that - apparently
it is probable that - probably
notwithstanding the fact that - although
adequate number of - enough
excessive number of - too many
Avoid Using Jargon

Government workers are familiar with many forms of government jargon. However, using jargon can create problems because the public may not understand it. Don’t use a term such as “vertical federalism” in a paper that may be distributed to the public unless you explain it clearly in the text. But if you have to explain a term, why not use an alternate expression from the start?
Instead of:

The perceived acceptability of disparities caused by differences in preferences is based on allocative efficiency.

Use:

People see unequal service as fair if they are getting what they want.
Trendy, fashionable expressions, such as “level playing field”, “downtime”, “leading edge”, “streamline”, “interface with” and “rationalization of resources” are used far too often. They can undermine the impact of what you’re trying to say because they are not well understood by the public. The fact that they are trendy will also mean that they will soon date your writing. Avoid them.Instead of:

You will receive reactivation and assistance consistent with your requirements.

Use:

You will get the amount of help you need.
Avoid or Explain Technical Words

Avoid technical words or explain them on the same page where they appear in the text.
Instead of:

These factors have contributed to a more bimodal distribution of earnings.

Use:

These factors help make the rich richer and the poor poorer.
Instead of:

If you see a crime committed, you may receive a subpoena.
Use:

If you see a crime committed, you may receive a “subpoena.” A subpoena is an order of the court telling you when and where you must appear to testify as a witness in a trial.
Don’t Change Verbs into Nouns

Nouns created from verbs usually give a sentence an impersonal tone. They are harder for the reader to understand.
Instead of:

The requirement of the Department is that employees work seven and one-half hours a day.

Use:

The Department requires employees to work seven and one-half hours a day.
Instead of:

The implementation of the rule necessitated a reassessment of policy.
Use:

When the Directorate put the rule into practice, the Department had to reassess its policy.
Here is a list of derivative nouns that are commonly used and a list of the preferred verb forms.acceptance - accept
application - apply
approval - approve
assumption - assume
calculation - calculate
certification - certify
complaint - complain
conservation - conserve
consideration - consider
contribution - contribute
decision - decide
deduction - deduce
delivery - deliver
designation - designate (name, appoint)
deterioration - deteriorate
determination - determine
disclosure - disclose
discovery - discover
disposal, disposition - dispose (sell, give away)
distribution - distribute
education - educate
enforcement - enforce
examination - examine
filing - file
inclusion - include
information - inform
investigation - investigate
movement - move
objection - object
payment - pay
persistence - persist
prevention - prevent
promotion - promote
qualification - qualify
reaction - react
receipt - receive
recurrence - recur
reduction - reduce
reliance - rely
remittance - remit
residence - reside
resistance - resist
specification - specify
statement - state
submission - submit
Example

Establishment of goals for the hiring, training and promotion of designated group employees. Such goals will consider projections for hiring, promotions, terminations, lay-offs, recalls, retirements and, where possible, the projected availability of qualified designated group members.

Employment and Immigration Canada Federal Contractors Program, 1991, p. 5
Revised

Establish goals for hiring, training and promoting employees from designated groups. Such goals will reflect the rate at which we will hire, promote, terminate, lay off or recall members of designated groups and the rate at which they will retire. Where possible, the goals will project how many qualified members will be available.
Example

Factor Music Action Canada assist in the creation, production and syndication of new radio programs by private Canadian production companies for future broadcast by radio stations in Canada.

Communications Canada, Sound Recording Development Program Information Guide, 1986, p. 15
Revised

Factor Music Action Canada will assist private Canadian production companies to create, produce and syndicate new radio programs for future broadcast by radio stations in Canada.
Example

Improvement of the Defence Planning and Force Development process is a prerequisite to improvement of the Defence Program Management System.

Auditor General of Canada Report of the Auditor General, 1992, p. 17
Revised

We need to improve the Defence Planning and Force Development process before we can improve the Defence Program Management System.
Example

Such immigrant communities may well become targets for penetration, manipulation and coercion by foreign intelligence services, thus threatening to limit expression of their new-found rights.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service Public Report, 1992
Revised

Foreign intelligence services may well penetrate, manipulate and coerce such immigrant communities, thus threatening to limit expression of their new-found rights.
Example

Communication by the organization’s chief executive officer to employees, unions and/or employee associations of the commitment to achieve equality in employment through the design and implementation of an employment equity plan.

Employment and Immigration Canada Federal Contractors Program, 1991, p. 3
Revised

Communication by the chief executive officer to employees, unions and/ or employee organizations that the organization is committed to achieving equality in employment by designing and implementing an employment equity plan.
Avoid Chains of Nouns

Chains of nouns are strings of two or more nouns used to name one thing. They are often difficult for a reader to understand, and give a bureaucratic tone to documents. You may have encountered such burdensome expressions as:

- resource allocation procedures
- transport facility development programming
- consumer information-seeking behaviour
- product extension mergers
Noun chains take some effort to untangle. They lack connecting words, such as of, for, about, in and the possessive marker, ’s, that would clarify how the nouns relate to each other.

Instead of:

World population is increasing faster than world food production.

Use:

The world’s population is increasing faster than its food production.
Example

Registered retirement savings plan deduction limit
Revised

Maximum amount you can deduct for contributions to your registered retirement savings plan
Example

Registered retirement savings plan dollar limit
Revised

Maximum amount you can contribute to your registered retirement savings plan
Example

Unused registered retirement savings plan deduction room

Revenue Canada Pensions – An RRSP Tax Guide, 1991, p. 746
Revised

Unused portion of the maximum amount you can deduct for contributions to your registered retirement savings plan
Use Acronyms Carefully

Acronyms are formed from the first letter of the words which they represent. Remember that not everyone will know the organization or program that the letters refer to. Not everyone knows that “SIN” refers to “Social Insurance Number.” Put the acronym in brackets the first time you use the proper term. Then you can use the acronym in the rest of your text.

Some acronyms, such as U.S.A. or R.C.M.P., may be so well-known that they need no explanation and may be written with or without periods after each letter. Ask yourself whether your reader is likely to know the acronym you want to use. When in doubt, spell it out.
Here are examples of acronyms and suggested revisions. Technically, many of these are not acronyms, but abbreviations. However, more and more people are calling any abbreviation that is derived from the first letter of words an acronym.
Example

If you earn benefits for 1991 under an RPP benefit provision or under a DPSP, your employer normally has to calculate and report a 1991 PA for you.

Revenue Canada Pensions – An RRSP Tax Guide, 1991, p. 9
Revised

If you earn benefits for 1991 under a Registered Pension Plan benefit provision or under a Deferred Profit-Sharing Plan, your employer normally has to calculate and report a 1991 Pension Adjustment for you.
Example

A DNA sex probe was developed at DFO’s PBS, W. Vancouver Laboratory, in conjunction with Sea Spring Salmon Farm and the Science Council of B.C.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada Partnership in Success, 1992
Revised

A DNA sex probe was developed at the Department of Fisheries and Ocean’s Pacific Biological Station, West Vancouver Laboratory, in conjunction with Sea Spring Salmon Farm and the Science Council of British Columbia.
Avoid Using Words from Foreign Languages

If you are producing an English-language document, write in English. Scattering your writing with expressions borrowed from another language only confuses your readers. Avoid even common Latin abbreviations like e.g. and i.e.
Here is a list of commonly found Latin expressions and their English equivalents:

ad infinitum - endlessly
bona fide - genuine, sincere
nota bene - please note
e.g. - for example
i.e. - that is
per annum - per year
Explain Complex Ideas

If you are talking about research, policies or programs, don’t dwell on the theory at the expense of practical descriptions. It may be important to tell people what your research goals were and how your findings have validated your working hypothesis. But you should be careful to define all the technical terms and give concrete examples of what you mean.
Complicated ideas need special attention. For example, you may believe that your reader understands what you mean by “bona fide occupational requirement.” But it is important to explain complex terms anyway. Help your reader out.
The following text contains a number of complex ideas:

Expansion of existing services beyond the initial capitalization would be based on demonstrated market need and a record of cost-effective delivery. Funding of expansion up to a level sufficient to sustain the integrity of the capital base with good management will be by non-repayable contribution.
What type of expansion? What kind of services? What is initial capitalization? How is demonstrated market need assessed? The reader needs a solid background in several subjects to wade through this text. Explain your terms from the start or your reader may not read on.
In the following text, a complicated theoretical term is defined in a concrete way:The consumer price index measures monthly and yearly changes in the cost of 300 goods and services commonly bought by Canadians. If the combined cost of this “basket” of items goes up, then there has been inflation. The greater the increase, the higher the inflation rate has become.
Here are examples of how technical terms are defined and suggested revisions:

Example

Spousal registered retirement income fund – A spousal RRIF is an RRIF under which your spouse is the annuitant that has received funds from a spousal RRSP or another spousal RRIF.

Revenue Canada Pensions – An RRSP Tax Guide, 1991, p. 7
Revised

A spousal registered retirement income fund is a reserve which pays yearly to your spouse and which has received money from a spousal RRSP or another spousal RRIF.
Example

Economic espionage may be defined as the illegal or clandestine acquisition of critical Canadian economic information and technology by foreign governments or their surrogates.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service Public Report, 1992
Revised

Economic espionage means foreign governments or their agents obtaining critical Canadian economic and technological secrets illegally.
If it is not possible to define the term simply and remain accurate, use an example to give the reader an idea of what the technical term means. With complex material, the only way to make a point clearly may be to use an example. Examples work well to show how abstract information applies in a practical situation.Examples may be short and simple, or long and detailed. Short examples may be included in the main text, or set off from it in some way. Long examples should always be set off from the text.

When selecting examples, remember to include people and situations that your readers can relate to.
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

Universal education and the imperatives of the shifting techno-economic order have eliminated reading (and writing) as the exclusive tools and intellectual property of the literati.
Suggested Solution

Universal education and the demands of the changing economy mean that reading and writing are not the exclusive tools of educated people.
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

It is quite startling to note Canadians’ apparent zest for pleasure reading – particularly in light of the collective angst about the sorry state of reading in our putatively post-literate society.
Suggested Solution

It is surprising how much Canadians enjoy pleasure reading particularly in light of the anxiety about poor reading levels in a society that is supposed to be so literate.
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

“Bias” has been defined as an inclination towards a specific attitude or preconceived opinion about certain groups of people or things. A “stereotype” represents a widespread view of a particular group which does not take into consideration intrinsic, individual characteristics. In applying the guidelines, material should be reviewed for words, images and situations that reinforce erroneous perceptions or suggest that all or most members of a racial or ethnic group are the same.
Suggested Solution

“Bias” means having an attitude or opinion about certain groups of people or things. A “stereotype” is a general opinion about a particular group which does not consider individual characteristics. When you apply the guidelines, review the material for words, images and situations that suggest a bias or a stereotype.
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

Prior to completing the application the applicants should determine if their qualifications meet the requirements of the program.
Suggested Solution

You must meet the requirements of the program before you apply.
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

In our present circumstances, the budgetary aspect is a factor which must be taken into consideration to a greater degree.
Suggested Solution

In our present circumstances, cost must be considered more often.
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

In addition, clear locational and wayfinding signage for the visually, mobility, and developmentally impaired is deficient, particularly to emergency exiting routes.
Suggested Solution

As well, signs for the visually, mobility and developmentally impaired are not clear or understandable. The emergency exit signs are particularly poor.
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

The corporate financial function does not comprehensively challenge revenue plans and performance for the Department as a whole, thereby minimizing its input to revenue realization.
Suggested Solution

The corporate financial department does not identify revenue plans and performance objectives for the department. As a result, the department cannot contribute to realizing a profit.
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

The acquisition, operation and disposal of vehicles can be significantly improved.
Suggested Solution

We can significantly improve the way we acquire, operate and dispose of vehicles.
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

“Temporary pass” means a document which is designed to allow persons not entitled to a departmental identification card, or subject to the limitations contained therein, authorized access to departmental premises during silent hours for a limited period.
Suggested Solution

A “temporary pass” is a document that enables you to temporarily access the department after hours. A temporary pass is issued to you if you are not entitled to a departmental identification card.
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

These various different agencies and offices that provide aid and assistance services to individual persons who participate in our program activities that we offer have reversed themselves back from the policy that they recently announced to return to the original policy that they followed earlier.
Suggested Solution

Various agencies assist people who participate in our program. These agencies are now following their original policy.
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

Decisions about the distribution of assistance funds should be made taking into consideration the following questions: Will the plan foster the conservation of existing stock through the preservation of housing deterioration? Will it foster the promotion of neighbourhood stability?
Suggested Solution

When you allocate assistance funds, please consider the following questions:

• will the plan conserve existing stock by preventing housing from deteriorating?
• will it promote neighbourhood stability?
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

The existing regulations are plagued with significant problems which render them inadequate to support the current regulatory program and incapable of meeting the challenge of expeditiously incorporating new regulatory obligations and commitments. The sheer complexity of the existing regulations results in an unnecessary waste of legislative drafters’ precious time.
Suggested Solution

The existing regulations are complex and have significant problems. The regulations cannot support the current regulatory program. Legislative drafters waste time trying to incorporate new regulatory obligations and commitments.
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

Timeliness of response, which usually depends on the proximity of rescue resources to incidents, is a critical factor in saving people in distress.
Suggested Solution

Quick response is critical in saving people in distress. The response time usually depends on how close rescue units are to where the incident occurs.
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

The present quarterly instalment requirements create problems in that at the time the first and second instalments, March 15 and June 15, are required to be made the tax liability for the prior year may not be known or assessed. Also, the option of estimating the liability for the current year requires a complicated calculation.

To resolve these problems an additional option for the determination of quarterly instalments will make it simpler and more certain for quarterly remitters.
Suggested Solution

If you pay personal income tax in quarterly instalments, you have two options. Both options pose problems. If you base your instalments on an estimate of this year’s tax payable, you have to go through complicated calculations. If you base your instalments on an estimate of this year’s tax payable, you may have already paid your first instalments before you even know last year’s tax payable.

To make things simpler and more certain for you, Revenue Canada, Taxation, is providing you with a new option.
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

Where a cheque is tendered in payment, the name of the corporation must be entered on the face of the cheque.
Suggested Solution

If you pay by cheque, be sure to write the name of the corporation on the front of it.
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

As a non-resident who sojourned in Canada over 183 days in the calendar year, you are deemed to be a resident of Canada and not of a province. Therefore, you are not entitled to claim provincial tax credits.
Suggested Solution

You lived in Canada as a non-resident for more than 183 days in the calendar year. We consider you to be a resident of Canada, but not a resident of a province. Therefore, you cannot claim provincial tax credits.
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

We are recommending the employment of a three-month temporary public health dietician to provide staff relief and additional service in several high need mandatory program areas.
Suggested Solution

We recommend that the Department employ a public health dietitian for three months to provide staff relief and additional service in several mandatory programs that need assistance.
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

A thorough inspection of your forest home or summer cottage, and the surrounding property for obvious fire hazards is the first step in fire protection.
Suggested Solution

You can begin to protect your forest home or summer cottage from fire by inspecting your land and building(s) for obvious fire hazards.
Exercise in Using Appropriate Words

Respondents were concerned with management of the unit. Most of them judged the quality of supervisors’ communication to be negative. They viewed the management of downsizing as ad hoc, without consultation and clear and accurate information. People had the impression of being cut adrift and left to their own devices.
Suggested Solution

Respondents were concerned with management of the unit. Most respondents considered that their supervisors communicated poorly. They thought that management dealt with reducing the size of the unit without planning ahead, without consulting staff and without providing clear and accurate information. They felt that they had been left to figure out for themselves what was going on and how to deal with it.
Write the Way You Speak

Example

This senior-level committee would be mandated to provide support to the Directorate in the establishment of a clear mandate of its role throughout the Department, with due consideration given to available person-years and financial resources.
Revised

This committee would help the Directorate develop a mandate that can be carried out with available staff and money.
Address Your Readers Directly

Instead of:

The client can make application to the Department of Motor Vehicles for licensing before June 1.
Use:

You can apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles for your licence before June 1.
Instead of addressing employers and students directly, one government pamphlet talks indirectly about them:

…the program challenges employers from all sectors to create meaningful summer jobs that can give young people real learning opportunities. By responding to the challenge, employers in all sectors stand to strengthen the calibre of Canada’s future workforce.
If rewritten, the pamphlet could speak to employers and use examples that are relevant to them. For example:

Whether you run a car repair shop or manage a large financial company, you can give a young person a meaningful summer job. By giving a student an opportunity to learn about your business, you are helping to train Canada’s future workforce.

The next example talks directly to students and uses examples that are relevant and meaningful to them.

You can get a loan of up to $7,500 interest free for the first year of the five-year loan term....

You must contribute some of your own assets to the operations, either cash or some equipment useful to the business: a car, tools, garage space, etc.

When you include examples to illustrate your point, you help your reader understand how the ideas might apply in real life.
One Idea to a SentenceSentences containing more than one idea are called compound or complex sentences. The most common form of a compound sentence is two simple sentences connected with the conjunction “and.” Compound or complex sentences can be readable. However, if you find more than one verb and one subject in the sentence, check to make sure you really want to connect the two ideas.
Example of more than one idea in a sentence:

Some commercial sources such as second-hand bookstores, book exchanges or book banks, and book fairs featuring used books recycle previously purchased books and do not create new sales for the industry.

Communications Canada Reading in Canada, 1991
Revised

Some commercial sources such as second-hand bookstores, book exchanges, book banks, and book fairs featuring used books recycle previously purchased books. They do not create new sales for the industry.

The revision creates two separate sentences.
Example of more than one idea in a sentence:

All travellers, including children, may be eligible for certain exemptions and as each traveller must also meet the entry requirements of several government agencies, it will be necessary for each person to complete a card.

Canada Customs Declaration Card

(This complex sentence contains many ideas. It could be rewritten to separate the ideas.)
Revised

All travellers, including children, must meet the entry requirements of several government agencies. Also, you may be eligible for certain exemptions. For these reasons, each person must complete a card.

The revision separates the original sentence into three ideas – the requirements of several agencies, the possibility of exemptions, and the reason for completing a card.
Example of more than one idea in a sentence:

All documents must be verified and applications must be found to be free of criminal and security prohibitions, so any clarification required in these areas may result in delays in processing.

Dealing with Canadian Citizenship Inquiries
Revised

There may be delays in processing citizenship applications. The delays can happen because all documents must be verified and applicants must not have any criminal and security prohibitions.

In the revised text, the first sentence is a simple sentence. The second sentence is a compound sentence. However, the compound sentence is easier to understand because it contains two ideas instead of the original three.
Writing that uses only simple sentences can be boring.Good writing uses a mixture of simple sentences and well-written compound sentences.
Don’t Overload Sentences

Don’t place a new idea in the middle of a sentence. If you have a related point you want to make, use another sentence. If you want to give some details, use another paragraph. Don’t cram information into one sentence. For example:

However, by virtue of subsection 32(3) of the PSEA, an employee may apply to the Department for leave of absence (without pay) to seek political office (in a federal, provincial or territorial election) and the employee may be granted leave if the Department is of the opinion that the usefulness to the Public Service of the employee in the position he then occupies would not be impaired by reason of his having been a candidate for election...
The above example could be improved in a number of ways:

• the ideas it contains can be broken up into separate sentences

• the writer could have addressed “you” directly

For example:

However, under section 32(3) of the PSEA, you can apply to the Department for a leave of absence without pay to run for office in a federal, provincial or territorial election. The Department may grant you leave if it finds that your ability to work in your current job will not be impaired because of your candidacy.
Write Clear, Direct and Short Sentences

Research has shown that most people can retain between 15 and 25 words at one time. By the time your readers reach the end of a long sentence – or the middle of a really long one – they have forgotten the beginning.
An average sentence length of 15 to 25 words helps to improve the readability of your document. However, it doesn’t guarantee readability. A well-organized, long sentence with tabulated points may be easier to follow than a poorly organized short sentence.
Example

The Government recognizes the Canada Council’s vital role in assisting and nurturing the arts in Canada and will continue to review the financial requirements of the Council in light of both fiscal restraint and the desire of the artistic and academic research communities for increased financial resources and long-term stability.

Communications Canada Unique Among Nations, 1993
Revised

We recognize the Canada Council’s vital role in assisting and nurturing the arts in Canada. We also recognize that the artistic and academic research communities want increased funding and long-term stability. However, the need for fiscal restraint will affect our continuing review of the financial requirements of the Council.
Example

And now with new Canadian standards for rating windows as well as incentive programs in certain provinces for consumers and builders using high-performance varieties, some manufacturers are working to bring their products up to the performance levels needed to qualify under the incentive programs.

Energy, Mines & Resources Canada Partnership in Success, 1992
Revised

Some window manufacturers are working to improve their products because of new Canadian standards for rating windows and new incentive programs adopted by certain provinces. Consumers and builders will qualify for these programs if they use high-performance varieties.
Here is an example that uses short sentences to make its point:Example

The solution is simple. Don’t take things that don’t belong to you. Before you buy or borrow something from a friend, make sure that it’s theirs to sell or lend. If your friends are involved in theft or break and enter, try to talk them out of it. If you can’t, leave the scene, because you can also be charged.

Solicitor General Canada Youth and the Law
Keep the sentence core together

The sentence core is made up of the subject and the verb. A sentence is easy to read when these elements are close together.

“Left-branching” sentences are sentences with an extra phrase at the beginning. “Centre-embedded” sentences have an extra phrase in the middle. Sentences with these constructions are more difficult to read than “right-branching” sentences – those with an extra phrase at the end.
Dependent clauses often cause the branching problem. A dependent clause is a group of words that do not form a complete sentence. They often introduce related but separate ideas into a sentence – making the sentence more complex.

The most common form of dependent clause is the conditional clause at the beginning of a sentence. This construction results in a “left-branching” sentence as in the following example.
Example

If the $20,000 past-service contribution had been paid after March 27, 1988, and not under a written agreement entered into before March 28, 1988, Morgan would calculate the amount he could deduct for 1991 under the limit that applies to past-service contribution while a contributor.

Revenue Canada Pensions – An RRSP Tax Guide, 1991
Revised

Morgan would calculate the amount he could deduct in 1991 under the limit that applies to past-service contribution if the $20,000 past-service contribution:

• had been paid after March 27, 1988, and

• was not under a written agreement entered into before March 28, 1988.

The reader must first read and understand the condition, then read the core of the sentence. For long conditionals, like the above example, trying to keep all the information in short-term memory is too difficult.
Examples of left-branching and centre-embedded sentences (1)

Our records indicate that on the date shown on the address label on the reverse side of this questionnaire, you either completed this course or for some other reason, left the course early.

Employment and Immigration
Revised

A date appears on the address label on the reverse side of this questionnaire. Our records indicate you either completed the course or left the course early on that date.
Examples of left-branching and centre-embedded sentences (2)

Bounded by the Coast Mountains to the west, the North British Columbia Mountains Region to the north, and the Rocky Mountains to the east, the region comprises broad plateaus, valleys, highlands and mountains.

Environment Canada The State of Canada’s Climate, 1992
Revised

The region comprises broad plateaus, valleys, highlands and mountains. It is bounded on the west by the Coast Mountains, on the north by the North British Columbia Mountains Region, and on the east by the Rocky Mountains.
Examples of left-branching and centre-embedded sentences (2)

Suppliers who employ 100 persons or more and who wish to, or are invited to, bid on contracts worth $200,000 or more with the federal government, will first certify in writing their commitment to implement employment equity according to specific criteria.

Employment and Immigration Canada Federal Contractors Program
Revised

Suppliers will first certify in writing their commitment to implement employment equity according to specific criteria. This requirement applies to suppliers who employ 100 persons or more and who bid on contracts worth $200,000 or more with the federal government.
Put the subject and verb close to the beginning of the sentence. Too much information between the subject and the verb makes it difficult for the reader to find out what the subject of the sentence is doing.Instead of:

The committee, which was assembled at the request of the Cabinet on the recommendation of the coalition of citizens’ groups, will consider alternative approaches.

Use:

The coalition of citizens’ groups recommended that Cabinet assemble the committee. At the Cabinet’s request, the committee will consider alternative approaches to...
Active Sentences

In the active voice, the subject of a sentence is the doer of the action. Follow the usual word order in your sentences — subject, verb, object. This helps make sure you use the active voice. Your sentences will be easier to understand.

Many government documents use the passive voice, which can sound very impersonal.
Instead of:

In early April, all applications will be reviewed by the committee.

Use:

The committee will review all applications in early April.

Since it is the committee that is doing the action, why not mention it first?
Example

Citizenship cannot be renounced merely by making a personal declaration to this effect.

Multiculturalism and Citizenship Canada Dual Citizenship, 1992
Revised

You cannot renounce your citizenship merely by making a personal declaration.
Example

The police look for facts that prove a crime occurred and that can be used as evidence in court. If there is sufficient evidence, and the alleged offender can be located, criminal charges can be laid.

Department of Justice Canada What to do if a child tells you of sexual abuse, p. 5
Revised

The police look for facts that prove a crime occurred and that the crown attorney can use as evidence in court. If there is sufficient evidence, and the police can locate the alleged offender, they can lay criminal charges.
Example

Although it is impossible to list every type of communication material issued by the federal government, the most common forms are included here.

Dept. of the Secretary of State of Canada A Matter of Balance, 1988, p. 4
Revised

Although it is impossible to list every type of communication material issued by the federal government, we have included the most common forms here.
Example

Two weeks after the initial mailing, a reminder card was sent to each member of the target sample. Three weeks after the reminder card a full package was sent to each individual who had not yet responded at that time. The survey period was completed four weeks after the last mailing.

Reading in Canada, 1991, Highlights, p. 3
Revised

Two weeks after the initial mailing, we sent a reminder card to each member of the target sample. Three weeks after the reminder card, we sent a full package to each individual who had not yet responded at that time. The survey period ended four weeks after the last mailing.
Good Examples of Active Voice (1)

Employers pay their workers every week, every two weeks or once a month. You can be paid in cash, by cheque or by direct deposit to your bank account. Your pay stub shows how much you earned. It also lists deductions for taxes, pension, unemployment insurance and any other items that are deducted from your pay.

Employment and Immigration Canada Living in Canada, What You Should Know, 1993
Good Examples of Active Voice (2)

The system first proved its worth only nine days after tests began. On Sept. 9, 1982, the Ottawa ground station picked up distress signals relayed by COSPAS 1 from a plane crash in northern British Columbia. The signals led searchers to the plane in a mountain valley 90 km off its planned route. Canadian Forces personnel rescued three injured survivors, in the world’s first satellite-aided rescue operation.

Communications Canada Space Facts
There are times when the passive voice is useful, usually when the subject is not important or you don’t know the subject.For example:

A number of programming options were tried throughout the ’80s.
You may want to use the passive voice sometimes. In the following example, the focus is on children who are sexually abused rather than the abuser. The passive voice is used to emphasize the victim.Many children who are victims of sexual abuse are told to keep what happened a secret. In most cases, they are bribed, intimidated or threatened. In some cases, the offender even uses physical force in efforts to keep the child from telling.

Department of Justice Canada What to do if a child tells you of sexual abuse
Don’t be afraid to start sentences with and, or, but, for, so or yet. It is an easy way to shorten long sentences.

Instead of:

We had expected to meet our participation targets, but increased workloads because of the introduction of new programs kept us from travelling to northern locations as frequently as we had planned.
We had expected to meet our participation targets. But, with new programs, our workload increased and we couldn't travel to northern locations as frequently as we had planned.
Keep It Short

Readers can only take in so much new information at one time. So some people recommend that sentences should average about 15 words in length and that no sentence should be more than 25 words long. This rule is not hard-and-fast, however. A variety of sentence lengths can add interest to your writing. Readers can understand longer sentences if they are well-constructed and use familiar terms. Clear is best.
Instead of:

This policy does not appear to be well understood by line management in the Region, even though this group has a primary responsibility for implementing the policy.

Use:

The regional managers who are most responsible for carrying out this policy do not seem to understand it well.
Keep It Simple

The following sentence, on the other hand, could use some additional explanation.

Instead of:

Plateauing or career blockage refers to structural barriers to career advancement arising due to a combination of age imbalances and a static or contracting workforce.
Use:

“Plateauing” or “career blockage” refers to the lack of opportunities for public servants to be promoted to the executive level. This problem arises because there is a large number of public servants who may have many years to work before they retire and because the size of the public service is being reduced. For these reasons, there are fewer openings available at higher levels.
When you have a lot of information on one subject, break up long sentences by using point form to list important elements. But keep the lists short and group similar points together. For example, instead of making one list of a meeting’s objectives, divide the list into objectives on information-sharing, decisions needed, follow-up action and so on.Another way to break up blocks of information and draw the reader’s attention to important elements is to use a question-and-answer format. In a government publication written for teenagers, the following sequence of section headings was used to help young people find the information important to them:

• What happens when you are arrested?
• What happens in court if you are between twelve and seventeen?
• What happens in court if you are eighteen and over?
Be careful using charts and graphics to explain information. People with poor math skills can find charts hard to understand. When using graphics, you must be sure that the images mean the same thing to your reader as they do to you.Test the graphics with people who would be likely to read your document. Make sure graphics work for you, not against you.
Link Your Ideas

Don’t shorten sentences by leaving out words such as that, which and who. Use these words to link the ideas in a sentence and make the meaning clearer for your reader.

The following sentence, without its connecting words, is far from clear.

The driver of the truck passing by told the officer in the cruiser the car he saw hit the little girl in the intersection was red.

What or who was red? The car? The girl? The light? How many vehicles were involved in the accident?
The sentence could be rewritten as follows:

The driver of the truck told the officer in the cruiser that, as he was passing by, he saw a red car hit the little girl in the intersection.
Avoid Ambiguity

When a pronoun is used, there should be no doubt as to which noun it represents.

Instead of:

Michelle researched and wrote the speech herself, which everyone thought was impressive.
Use:

Everyone was impressed with the speech that Michelle researched and wrote herself.
Place Modifiers Correctly

The order of words within a sentence often affects the meaning of that sentence. Modifying words tend to do their work on whatever they are near. Therefore, be careful to put any modifying words as close as you can to the words you want them to modify.
Here is an example and a suggested revision:

Example

My client has discussed your proposal to fill the drainage ditch with his partners.

Revised

My client has discussed with his partners your proposal to fill the drainage ditch.
Adverbs and adverbial phrases also need to be placed properly to avoid confusion. If improperly placed, the adverbs only, even, both, merely, just, also, mainly, in particular and at least can cause confusion.

Instead of:

Supervisors and staff are required to both participate in orientation sessions and department seminars.
Use:

Supervisors and staff are required to participate both in orientation sessions and in departmental seminars.
Emphasize the Positive

Positive sentences are inviting and encourage people to read on. Negative sentences can seem bossy or hostile. They don’t encourage people to read on. People are generally more receptive to positive messages.
Instead of:

If you fail to pass the examination, you will not qualify for admission.

Use:

You must pass the examination to qualify for admission.
Use negative phrasing to emphasize danger, legal pitfalls or other warnings. It is also appropriate to use negative phrasing to allay fears or dispel myths. For example, a federal AIDS brochure first asks:

How does HIV spread?
After that has been explained, the writers answer the question:

How is HIV not spread?

The virus is not spread through casual everyday contact. In the workplace this includes shaking hands, sharing work equipment, cutlery, coffee mugs or glasses. Washrooms and water fountains can also be shared without risk of HIV infection.
Avoid Unnecessary Preambles

Sentences often begin with unnecessary preambles, phrases that weaken or hide the point they introduce. These preambles can usually be dropped without changing the meaning.
Here is a list of some unnecessary preambles:

• It is important to add that…
• It may be recalled that…
• In this regard it is of significance that…
• It is interesting to note that…
• Despite the fact that…
• Clear beyond dispute is the fact that…
• The point is…
• This is a situation in which…

“There are” and “it is” are often used unnecessarily. You should avoid beginning sentences with these preambles.
Example of an unnecessary preamble

Unlike the Citizenship Act in effect in Canada up to 1977, the present Act allows a Canadian citizen to acquire a foreign nationality without automatically losing Canadian citizenship.

Multiculturalism and Citizenship Canada Dual Citizenship, 1991
Revised

The Citizenship Act allows a Canadian citizen to acquire foreign nationality without automatically losing Canadian citizenship.
Avoid Double Negatives

It isn’t quite enough to remember that a double negative makes a positive. We avoid writing “I don’t know nothing about it” if we mean that we know nothing about it. But watch out for two or more negative constructions in a sentence.
Instead of:

• He was not absent.
• The procedure will not be ineffective.
• It was never illegitimate.

Use:

• He was present.
• The procedure will be effective.
• It was always legitimate.
Eliminate Prepositional Phrases

Usually prepositional phrases can easily be replaced with a single, simpler word.
Here is a list of prepositional phrases and a list of simpler phrases to replace them.

at this (that) point in time - now (then)
as a consequence of - because of
by means of - by, under
by reason of - because of
by virtue of - by, under
for the purpose of - to
for the reason that - because
from the point of view of - from, for
in accordance with - by, under
in addition to - besides
inasmuch as - since
in association with - with
in case of - if
in connection with - with, about, concerning
in excess of - more than, over
in favour of - for
in order to - to
in relation to - about, concerning
insofar as - since
in the absence of - without
in the course of - during
in the event of/that - if
in the nature of - like
in the neighbourhood of - near
in the vicinity of - near
in view of - because of
on a daily basis - daily
on a regular basis - regularly
on the grounds of - because of
prior to - before
subsequent to - after
until such time as - until
with the exception of - except
with reference to - about, concerning
with regard to - about, concerning
with respect to - about, for, on
Put Parallel Ideas in Parallel ConstructionsWhenever a sentence includes a series of similar items, make sure that all items are in the same form. Describe each item using similarly constructed phrases. For example, use the same tense for all verbs that describe listed items.
Example

Going on vacation…

• Inform a neighbour of your departure…
• Have your neighbour pick up newspapers…
• Small valuables should be stored…
• Use clock timers that activate lights…
• Before leaving, ensure all entries are secured…

Solicitor General Canada Home Security
Revised

Going on vacation…

• Inform a neighbour of your departure…
• Have your neighbour pick up newspapers…
• Store small valuables…
• Use clock timers that activate lights…
• Secure all entries before leaving…
Parallel constructions often feature the use of conjunctions in pairs. Paired or correlative conjunctions are connectors that show similarity or difference.Common paired conjunctions include the following:

…as well as…
both…and…
either…or
neither…nor
not…but
not only…but also
Example of the use of conjunction

Plain language meets the audience’s needs not only by using simpler writing and logical organization but also inviting design.
Revised

Plain language meets the audience’s needs by using not only simpler writing and logical organization but also inviting design.
Think About Your Choice of Paragraphs and Sentences:

• limit each paragraph to one idea
• don’t overload sentences
• use active sentences
• keep sentences and paragraphs short
• keep sentences simple
• link your ideas
• avoid ambiguity in your sentences
• emphasize the positive
• avoid double negatives
Plain language writing emphasizes the use of the clearest words possible to describe actions, objects and people. That often means choosing a two-syllable word over a three-syllable one, an old, familiar term instead of the latest bureaucratic expression, and sometimes, several clear words instead of one complicated word.

As with all the other elements of plain language writing, your choice of words should be based on what will be clearer for your reader. If you’re not sure, ask. Test out your document with some of the people who are likely to use it.
Exercise in Writing Clear and Effective Sentences (1)

Illiterate adults are not able to read most work written for adults. Most illiterate adults are, however, adult thinkers. Nevertheless, they are often unable to carry out democratic tasks like voting. They are, however, fully capable of making decisions required for such tasks.
Issues and Suggested Solution

Issues:

• use a positive tone, and
• put parallel ideas in parallel construction.

Solution:

Illiterate adults may have difficulty reading work written for adults. They may also have difficulty with democratic tasks like voting. However, illiterate adults are adult thinkers and they are capable of making the decisions required for these tasks.
Exercise in Writing Clear and Effective Sentences (2)

Collaboration takes many forms. Companies develop new services and products in consultation with suppliers and clients. They enter strategic alliances with foreign companies to build a market share. They launch adopt-a-school programs so that they can help train a new generation of Canadians for a knowledge-intensive global marketplace. But perhaps nowhere is the impact of collaboration felt more strongly than in science and technology. Innovation, through science and technology, is vital to businesses of all sizes in all sectors of the economy. Innovation intensifies productivity. It helps companies build niche markets in higher value-added production. It gives them the flexibility to respond to new market opportunities when they emerge.
Issues and Suggested Solution

Issues:

• place modifiers correctly,
• use a positive tone,
• avoid chains of nouns, and
• split material into two paragraphs.

Solution:

Companies collaborate in many ways. They:

• develop new products and services with their suppliers and clients,
• develop relationships with foreign companies to build market share, and
• launch adopt-a-school programs to help train Canadian children.

Collaboration is more evident, though, in science and technology. It helps companies introduce new products and services which:

• is vital for all businesses,
• increases productivity,
• helps companies build niche markets, and
• enables companies to respond to new market opportunities.
Exercise in Writing Clear and Effective Sentences (3)

The engineers have recommended sealing the panel cracks and monitoring the situation, which they believe does not constitute a problem with respect to the structural integrity of the panels.
Issues and Suggested Solution

Issues:

• place modifiers correctly,
• use a positive tone,
• avoid chains of nouns, and
• split material into two paragraphs.

Solution:

The engineers recommend sealing the panel cracks and monitoring the situation. They believe this recommendation will improve the structural quality of the panels.
Exercise in Writing Clear and Effective Sentences (4)

Both buildings were found to have features that impede accessibility for the handicapped, whether employees or clients of the government, and breached not only the National Building Code (NBC) in effect at the time of construction but also the subsequent Treasury Board directives for improving accessibility in existing government buildings, specifically with respect to wheelchair ramps, washrooms, door hardware, wayfinding and car parking.
Issues and Suggested Solution

Issues:

• write in the active voice,
• limit one idea to a sentence,
• use tabulation,
• eliminate surplus words,
• use verbs rather than nouns, and
• eliminate prepositional phrases.

Solution:

We found features in both buildings that make accessing the buildings difficult for persons with disabilities. We also found that the buildings were not constructed according to the National Building Code (NBC). The buildings also do not conform to the Treasury Board’s instructions for improving access to government buildings. These instructions apply to:

• wheelchair ramps,
• washrooms,
• door hardware,
• signs, and
• car parking.
Exercise in Writing Clear and Effective Sentences (5)

Shortly before Bill C-69 was introduced in Parliament, the province of British Columbia asked the British Columbia Court of Appeal whether the Government of Canada had any authority to limit its obligations under the Canada Assistance Plan, and whether the terms of the Agreement pursuant to the Plan between the governments of Canada and British Columbia gave rise to a legitimate expectation that the Government of Canada would not seek to limit its obligations under that Agreement without the consent of British Columbia.
Issues and Suggested Solution

Issues:

• write clear, direct and short sentences,
• avoid unnecessary preambles,
• eliminate surplus words, and
• limit one idea to a sentence.

Solution:

The province of British Columbia asked the British Columbia Court of Appeal whether the Government of Canada had to fulfill all of its obligations under the Canada Assistance Plan. They also asked whether the terms of their agreement for the Canada Assistance Plan stated that the government of Canada could limit its obligations without first asking British Columbia.
Exercise in Writing Clear and Effective Sentences (6)

The Department promotes activities that help achieve and maintain environmental standards. These include identifying sources and causes of pollution; advising on ways to prevent pollution and restore the environment; regulating the introduction, transportation, use and disposal of toxic substances; and enforcing environmental laws and regulations.
Issues and Suggested Solution

Issues:

• use tabulation, and
• use verbs rather than nouns.

Solution:

The Department promotes activities that help achieve and maintain environmental standards. These include:

• identifying sources and causes of pollution;
• recommending ways to prevent pollution and restore the environment;
• regulating the ways that toxic substances are introduced transported, used and disposed of; and
• enforcing environmental laws and regulations.
Exercise in Writing Clear and Effective Sentences (7)

It is hoped that this directory will provide a valuable resource for all of Canada’s business people.
Issues and Suggested Solution

Issue:

• write in the active voice.

Solution:

We hope that this directory will be a valuable resource for all Canadian business people.
Exercise in Writing Clear and Effective Sentences (8)

The guidelines apply to all internal and external federal government communications, including written, visual (slides, films, posters, publication covers, graphics, advertising) and oral (speeches, voice-overs, dialogues) material produced by the federal government or contracted for or purchased from the public sector.
Issues and Suggested Solution

Issue:

• use tabulation, and
• eliminate surplus words.

Solution:

The guidelines apply to all internal and external communications material produced by the federal government or contracted for or purchased from the private sector. Communications material includes:

• written material;
• visual material (slides, films, posters, publication covers, graphics, advertising); and
• oral material (speeches, voice-overs, dialogues).
Exercise in Writing Clear and Effective Sentences (9)

At the same time, the economic approach pursued by this study to highlight the importance of volunteer work does not imply that organized volunteer work should be regarded as a commercial economic activity, as this term is normally understood.
Issues and Suggested Solution

Issue:

• keep the sentence core together, and
• avoid chains of nouns.

Solution:

The study highlights the importance of volunteer work. The financial approach included in the study does not imply that organized volunteer work should be seen as a sales activity.
Writing Clear and Effective Paragraphs (1)

Exploring the Community

The advantages of this is that its demands are based on day-to-day experience, that its scope is flexible, and that it allows the teacher to gain a full measure of insight into parents’ lives. The first task is to explain to students that the community is its people and then to have them list family members and to go home and gather stories and objects which their parents consider to be of special significance. The objects should be displayed and the stories shared. Once this has been done parents should be invited to come and elaborate or to tell new stories themselves. The project can end at this point with family portraits, family trees, family histories, travel journals, biographies, etc. It can, however, be expanded to take in the entire neighbourhood. In this case, it may culminate in the preparation of street maps, the drawing up of bar graphs (on the relationship between one- and two-storey houses in a five-block section, for instance), the making of models of places of interest, the recording of interviews with local businessmen, the consideration of local concerns, the production of neighbourhood directories or tourist guides. Parents can take part in all these ventures – helping to make contacts for research purposes, accompanying groups or individuals on measuring or sketching expeditions, acting as guides for field trips to churches, synagogues, stores, and restaurants, finding materials, giving advice. They can be invited to view work in progress or at the time it is complete.
Issues and Suggested Solution

Issues:

• use topic sentence,
• limit one topic to a paragraph,
• use transition words properly,
• limit one idea to a sentence,
• use tabulation,
• use words your reader will understand,
• write clear, direct and short sentences, and
• write in the active voice.

Solution:

The Exploring the Community project is working well in our school. The advantages of Exploring the Community are that:

• the demands of the project are based on day-to-day experiences,
• the scope of the project is flexible, and
• teachers gain an insight into parents’ lives.

The teachers have developed an excellent procedure for the project. They start by talking to the students about their community. It is important that the students understand that the community is its people.

The next step is to have the students list all of the members of their family. The students can then go home and gather stories and objects that have special significance to the community.

The third step is to share the stories and objects. This should be done first with the students. Then, the parents can be invited to elaborate on the stories or tell some of their own.

The project can end at this point with family portraits, family histories, travel journals, biographies, etc. It can, however, be expanded to include the entire neighbourhood. In this case, the project might also include:

• preparing street maps;
• drawing bar graphs (showing the relationship between one- and two-storey houses in a five-block section, for example);
• making models of interesting places;
• recording interviews with local business people; and
• producing neighbourhood directories or tourist guides.

Parents can take part in all of these additional steps. They can:

• help to make contacts for research purposes;
• accompany students on, measure, or sketch expeditions;
• act as guides for field trips to churches, synagogues, stores and restaurants;
• find material; and
• give advice.
Writing Clear and Effective Paragraphs (2)

The new user fee policy indicates that full costs for the provision of facilities and services to external users should be known and recovered unless there are valid reasons to do otherwise. Compromising the objective of the program or other government goals, or an unacceptably adverse impact on the financial position of users, are two such reasons. The policy also indicates that a fee can exceed costs, such as in the case of issuance of limited rights and privileges, but reminds the departments to have the necessary authority. However, departments do not always have a cost recovery policy and related procedures to help determine where program objectives could be enhanced or might be impaired, or to determine where costs and other measures would be necessary to establish appropriate fees.
Issues and Suggested Solution

Issue:

• limit one topic to a paragraph,
• link sentences in the paragraph,
• eliminate surplus words,
• avoid chains of nouns,
• limit one idea to a sentence,
• use verbs rather than nouns,
• use tabulation, and
• eliminate prepositional phrases.

Solution:

The new policy for user fees indicates that we should identify and recover full costs when we provide facilities and services to external users. However, there are two reasons why we would not recover the full cost. They are:

1. The objective of the program or other government goals would be compromised.
2. The external users could not afford to pay the full costs.

The policy also indicates that the fee we charge the external user can exceed the full costs. This is the case, for example, when we issue limited rights and privileges. We must get proper authority to exceed costs for the fee.

Some departments do not have a policy or procedures for cost recovery. The policy and procedures help determine:

• where program objectives could be enhanced,
• where program objectives might be impaired, and
• what costs and other measures would have to be necessary to establish appropriate fees.
Writing Clear and Effective Paragraphs (3)

A variety of activities can be used to bring compliance with the law. Compliance promotion includes educating companies and the public on the requirements of the law on ways to avoid pollution. It also includes assistance in the form of technology and of tax or other economic incentives. Enforcement includes activities designed to detect violations to require correction or, as appropriate, to collect evidence and prosecute violators. Enforcement measures can range from warnings and directives to fines and imprisonment.
Issues and Suggested Solution

Issue:

• use topic sentence,
• limit one topic to a paragraph, and
• use tabulation.

Solution:

We use a variety of activities to ensure that companies and the public comply with pollution laws. They include educating companies and the public about ways to avoid pollution. As well, we provide technology and tax or other economic incentives.

We enforce the laws by designing activities that detect violators and ensure that they correct the situation. If necessary, we also collect evidence and prosecute violators.

People who violate the pollution laws are:

• given a warning,
• ordered to stop polluting,
• given a fine, or
• sent to prison.
Writing Clear and Effective Paragraphs (4)

The express lanes project was tried at a tunnel crossing into Ontario from 27 August to 14 December 1990. Like the special lanes project, travellers qualified only if they had no goods to declare. Unlike the other project, users had to first apply for an identification symbol for their vehicle and an individual permit. Customs, with assistance from Immigration officials, performed background checks and approved the application only if the applicant had no criminal record or record of other violation of Customs and Immigration laws. Approved users placed their symbol in the front windshield and proceeded slowly through dedicated express lanes, showing their permit. Customs inspectors checked for the symbol and the permit and did not have to stop the vehicle for questioning.
Issues and Suggested Solution

Issue:

• link sentences in the paragraph,
• limit one topic to a paragraph,
• avoid unnecessary preambles,
• write in the active voice,
• keep the sentence core together, and
• limit one idea to a sentence.

Solution:

We tried the express lanes project at a tunnel crossing into Ontario. The project lasted from August 27 to December 14, 1990.

First, travellers had to qualify for the project. To qualify, travellers were not allowed to declare any goods.

After qualifying, travellers had to apply for an identification symbol for their vehicle with an individual permit. Customs performed background checks on each traveller with assistance from Immigration officials. Applications were approved only if the traveller had no criminal record or record of violating a Customs and Immigration law.

Once approved, travellers could use the express lanes. To use them, travellers:

• placed their identification symbol in the front windshield of their car,
• proceeded slowly through the express lanes, and
• showed their permit to the Customs Inspectors.

Travellers passed more quickly through the tunnel into Ontario with the designated express lanes. Customs Inspectors checked for the symbol and the permit and didn’t have to stop the travellers for questioning.
Writing Clear and Effective Paragraphs (5)

Neither project has been successful because of the low utilization rates. Although 11 percent of travellers qualified for the special lanes at two of the bridges, only 0.5 percent used them. In fact, the project at these two sites was discontinued after five weeks, seven weeks ahead of schedule. Regular lanes were processing about 125 vehicles an hour; the special lane was only processing, on average, 3 vehicles an hour. At the third site about 40 vehicles an hour were processed in the special lanes, compared with 100 to 140 vehicles in regular lanes, and this project was completed as scheduled. Utilization of the express lanes at the tunnel crossing averaged 65 vehicles an hour and was up to 105 vehicles from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weeknights. However, the regular lanes were processing 210 vehicles an hour in the same time period. As no stopping was required in the express lanes, their use was well below capacity.
Issues and Suggested Solution

Issue:

• limit one topic to a paragraph,
• use transition words properly,
• limit one idea to a sentence, and
• use verbs rather than nouns.

Solution:

We tried two different projects at border crossings to help travellers pass more quickly into Ontario. The projects were not successful because travellers were not using the lanes.

The special lanes project was set up at three sites. At two of the sites, 11% of travellers qualified for the lanes, but only .5% actually used them. On average, the special lanes only processed three vehicles an hour. The regular lanes processed about 125 vehicles an hour. The project at these two sites was discontinued after five weeks, which was seven weeks ahead of schedule. At the third site, the special lanes processed 40 vehicles an hour. The regular lanes processed up to 140 vehicles an hour. The project was completed on time at the third site.

The express lanes project was set up at a tunnel crossing. The express lanes processed about 65 vehicles an hour. Up to 105 vehicles were processed in the express lanes between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on weeknights. However, the regular lanes processed 210 vehicles an hour in the same period. Since travellers were not required to stop in the express lanes, they were not being used as much as they could have been.
Appearances Are Very ImportantThe way you present information on the page is just as important as the words and sentences you use to present that information. A well-written document is harder to read if it is poorly laid-out. A good format helps highlight important information, links related sections and separates others. How your document looks can make the difference between your message being understood or lost.
Spacing

Pages of long paragraphs without lists or summaries appear harder to read than they need to.
• Keep your paragraphs short, generally no more than four or five sentences.
• Leave space between paragraphs.
• Divide your document into sections of related information.
• Don’t print on every inch of space on your page. For example, if you are using a column format, use only two columns for your text on a three-column page. Part of the extra white space can be used to draw attention to important information in boxes or boldface type.
• Be generous with margin space.
Do not use right justification. Use unjustified or ragged right-hand margins.When text is printed with a justified right margin, the letters or words on longer lines are spaced closer together, while letters or words on shorter lines are spread further apart, to even out the lines. Constantly adjusting to these changes is tiring to the eyes. Right justification can produce a lot of hyphenated words, which present another reading challenge.
Headings and Sub-HeadingsIf you use clear headings and sub-headings, the reader will be able to find specific information in your document. Some sample headings that can capture your reader’s attention are:

• How can I get help right away?
• What is a preliminary inquiry?
• What you can do
• Where to find answers and information on drugs
Highlighting

Use boxes to separate key information from the rest of your text. The information will stand out more on the page.

Highlight headings, words or phrases with boldface type, but don’t overuse it. If only a few words or phrases are highlighted, the reader will notice them even when just glancing at the page.
Other types of highlighting are:

• Bullets — Use them for point-form lists and summaries. They can be stylized as arrows or miniature graphics.

• Italic print — Use it to emphasize a phrase or word, as in, “I told him he could do the project, but on his time!” Italics are also used for phrases in other languages. Don’t overuse italic print. In large amounts, it is difficult to read.

• Underlining — Use it under titles or to add emphasis.

• Colour — Use it to add interest to the page, if your budget permits. Shaded areas can also be used to set text apart

 

From "Plain Language: Clear and Simple - Trainer's Guide" � Supply and Services Canada - 1994, Catalogue Number MP95-2/1-1994 E, ISBN 0-662-22420-5

 


Exercises created by Atty. Gerry T. Galacio; all rights reserved. You can freely use these exercises, but you must not upload them to any website or the cloud. For comments, questions, corrections, or suggestions, email gtgalacio@yahoo.com

 

Exercises created with freeware Hot Potatoes v. 6.3 from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.

 

Family Matters (complete text of the Family Code of the Philippines; frequently asked questions; relevant laws like RA 9262; legal procedures and Rules of Court)

 

Legal Updates (in-depth discussions of issues affecting the Filipino family, legal procedures, support, inheritance, etc.): Plain Language / Plain English for government offices, private companies, schools, and organizations; Clear, concise English for effective legal writing; Legal procedures in civil and criminal cases; Heirs and inheritances

Better English resources and exercises (free resources on grammar, pronunciation, spelling, writing, vocabulary, idioms, reading comprehension, public speaking, etc.)

 

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