3.4: Use of language

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Writing in plain English
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Write in short sentences. Have only one or two ideas in each sentence. If you need to explain a term or a point, use a separate sentence.

Use only as many words as necessary.

Organize your thoughts into brief paragraphs, with one central topic in each. This makes your writing easier to read and understand.

Try to use the present tense throughout. While you should write using present tense, letters may require you to tell a story in the tense that it occurred. If, however, you are giving instructions, present tense is the easiest for your readers to understand.

Use Active Rather Than Passive Voice

With an active verb, the three parts appear in a particular order: subject then verb then object. For example:

John (subject) led (verb) the meeting (object).
“Led” is an active verb here. The sentence says who is doing the leading before it says what is being led.

With a passive verb, the order is reversed: object then verb then subject.

The meeting (object) was led (verb) by John (subject).
“Led” is a passive verb here. The sentence says what is being led before it says who led the meeting.

You can see that by making the sentence passive, we introduced the words “was” and “by.” This made the sentence more complicated. Passives make your sentences longer, can be confusing and are less lively.

Many people often write in the passive voice. For example:
Bookings will be handled within five days.

In this sentence, it is not clear who will be carrying out the action. The reader may also be uncertain about what “handled” means. But writing the same sentence in the active voice is far more direct:
We will reply to your inquiry within five days.

The reader now knows who will be carrying out the action and what to expect from you.

There are exceptions, in which you should use the passive:
● When you don’t know who the actor is or you want you to hide the actor – “The agency has been chosen to provide the service.”
● To make something less hostile. “This invoice has not been paid” (passive) is softer than “you have not paid the invoice” (active).

Avoid nominalisations

A nominalisation is a type of abstract noun. In other words, it is the name of something that isn’t a physical object, such as a process, technique or emotion.

Nominalisations are formed from verbs. Like passive verbs, too many of them make writing boring and impersonal. And because they are merely the name of things, they sound as if nothing is really happening in the sentence.
For example:

Verb
discussed
investigated
implemented
Nominalisation
discussion
investigation
implementation

 

Activity
Please rephrase the following sentences in plain English:

1. The guests were welcomed by John Doe.

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John Doe welcomed the guests.



2. The current booking has been attached.

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I have attached the current booking.



3. Errors were found in the booking but steps have been taken to correct them.

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We found errors in the booking but corrected them.



4. The recommended guidelines for making bookings were followed by us.

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We followed the recommended booking guidelines.



5. The booking will be reviewed by the supervisor before it is sent to the manager.

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The supervisor will review the booking before s/he sends it to the manager.



6. We had a discussion about the matter.

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We discussed the matter.



7. There will be a closure of our facilities on May 23.

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Our facilities will be closed on May 23.



8. The implementation of the new method has been done by our team.

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Our team has implemented the new method.



9. There is an arrangement to pay the hotel on arrival.

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We arranged to pay on arrival.



10. There needs to be an investigation why the original rooms that were booked by us on the telephone are not available anymore.

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Please check why the original rooms we booked on the telephone are no longer available.

 

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