Thursday, 7 April 2016

How copy editors can simplify complicated language

Technical language isn’t necessarily wrong. It just depends where it’s used.

You would expect to find it in a specialist scientific document. But a copy editor should change it if the target reader is unlikely to understand them.

On our proofreading and editing course, we suggest several ways you can make technical language user-friendly:

  1. Use a simple summary at the start: 2-3 sentences that describe what the copy is about, and that summarise the main point. This prepares reader for what they’re about to read, and also gives them the chance to skip it if they feel it isn’t relevant.
  2. Use one sentence paragraphs. This breaks up the copy, which helps when the copy is hard-going.
  3. Use bullets, headings, sub headings and numbers.
  4. Include a glossary of terms.
  5. Provide a fictional ‘test’ to illustrate your point. So for a company briefing about the Bribery Act, offer this question: ‘Doris has been invited out for lunch by the purchasing manager of Bluestone Ltd – a company who are about to bid for a contract with her employers, Aker Solutions. What should she do: a) tell her boss? b) decline the invitation? Or c) Attend, but pay for her own lunch.
  6. Use an example – maybe from the news: ‘Last year, a British Gas executive was suspended and later arrested after accepting a gift from a man who was applying for a job in the executive’s department.’
See our proofreading and editing course

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