Oxford Guide to Plain English (4th edition)

Martin Cutts
  • 25 easy-to-follow guidelines, completely revised and updated with a clear new design
  • Includes a new list of clichéd and troublesome words to avoid
  • Split into a series of short guidelines dealing with a wide range of issues on good writing, including using short sentences, the active voice, correct punctuation, effective planning for writing, proofreading, writing for the Web, and clear organization
  • Provides hundreds of real examples

Plain English is the art of writing clearly, concisely, and in a way that precisely communicates your message to your intended audience. This book offers 25 practical guidelines helping you to improve your vocabulary, style, grammar, and layout to achieve clear writing. It gives expert advice on all aspects of the writing process: from avoiding jargon and legalese, to organizing written information in print and online. It also shows you how it's done with hundreds of real examples, including 'before' and 'after' versions. All this is presented in an authoritative and engaging way.

Completely revised and updated, this essential reference work is now even more useful: the word lists have been expanded; a new list of clichéd and troublesome words to avoid has been added; and examples of real-life stories have been replaced with more recent ones. An improved design gives the book a fresh feel.


Atarting points
Summary of guidelines

  1. Writing short sentences and clear paragraphs
  2. Preferring plain words
  3. Writing tight
  4. Favouring active-voice verbs
  5. Using vigorous verbs, and untying noun strings
  6. Using vertical lists
  7. Converting negative to positive
  8. Cross-references, cross readers
  9. Using good punctuation
  10. Pitching your writing at the right level
  11. Six writing myths explored and eploded
  12. Clearly non-sexist
  13. Conquering grammarphobia
  14. Conquering and excellent endings
  15. Planning well
  16. Using reader-centered structure
  17. Using alternatives to words, words, words
  18. Management of colleagues' writing
  19. Good practice with email
  20. Writing better instructions
  21. Clarity for the Web
  22. Lucid legal language
  23. Writing low-literacy plain English
  24. Basics of clear layout
  25. Keeping errors in Czech: its time to Proof read

Martin Cutts, Plain Language Commission
Martin Cutts is a writer, editor, and teacher. He co- founded the Plain English Campaign in 1979, and in 1994 he founded Plain Language Commission. He gives writing-skills courses in companies, government departments, and law firms. He is a leading voice in the international plain-language movement.

"This is a most useful addition to the shelves of anyone who has to write whether it is for the web, report-writing, letters, emails, instruction manuals or legal documents. Here is clarity and common sense - this little book provides it all and for a very reasonable cost indeed." - Reference Reviews, Joan Williamson

"should be on every writer's bookshelf" - Susanne Geercken and Alistair Reeves, Medical Writing