Plain English for Better Communication

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It seems like these days, everybody is trying to outsmart each other. We search for more complex, fancier words, when a simple one will do. The bigger the word, the more intelligent you seem. Yet, isn’t the point of language as a tool to communicate? The reason we have so many words is to refine and hone our speech, not muddle it.

Native English speakers are very lucky; being born into the language of English means being born into a global tongue, with little effort required to learn it. Yet, native speakers of English are often described as the worst communicators in the world. Put a Brit or American in a business meeting with a German, a Japanese person, and a Spanish person, and they are often the least understood. This is often because they themselves haven’t been through the difficulty of learning a second language, and also because they may not spend enough time with ESL speakers.

Here are some ways native English speakers are bad communicators:

  • Mumbling or talking too quietly;
  • Talking too quickly;
  • Using idioms and phrases;
  • Using bigger words than necessary;
  • Talking around a subject with more words than necessary.

The first two points can be remedied with a slower, more thought out pace and way of speaking. The last three take even more concentration. Idioms, phrases, and proverbs can be hard to translate, and should be avoided. Instead, use plain English to describe what you mean. Before making a point, think about what you want to get across, and aim to do it in as few words as possible. Illustrate your point with plain, simple words, use an example, and summarise it once more, at the end.

Using plain English and being more mindful of what we say is an important way to use language as a tool of communication.