Writing Training Handouts and Presentations in Plain English

By | November 25, 2018

[November 25, 2018]  When writing for an audience with diverse backgrounds, it is important to write in plain English so that the training is not lost on learners with low levels of English, prior learning and/or formal education. Writing in plain English can be challenging especially for highly educated trainers. However, there are a few tips and techniques to write handouts that are highly readable.

Convey the Message Concisely

The first rule in writing in plain English is to write concisely and by using the minimum number of words to get the point across. An example of writing that is not concise would be:

To boil an egg, first fill the pot with water from the tap. It is important not to overfill the pot or it could boil over. In addition, a pot with a copper bottom would distribute the heat more evenly making the water come to a rolling boil more quickly.

An example of a more concise sentence would be: To boil an egg quickly, ¾ fill a copper bottom pot with water. The copper bottom distributes heat evenly.

Avoid Acronyms and Abbreviations

Using acronyms and abbreviations is a quick way to lose an audience. If you must use an acronym or do my science homework, spell it out when it is used first and also include it in a glossary for easy reference. Abbreviations are also not recommended. Instead, write out “haven’t” as “have not”.

Avoid Industry Jargon

Again, it is important to avoid industry jargon as learners who are new to the industry will feel overwhelmed by the unfamiliar words. If you must use a few words that are particular to the industry, define them in a glossary.

Delete Unnecessary Phrases, Adjectives and Adverbs

While it is tempting to add in adjectives and adverbs when describing a process or concept, it can prevent learning if the vocabulary is above a North American grade 10 level.

For example, a sentence with excessive adjectives and adverbs would be: When boiling a fresh brown egg from a free range, grain-fed egg chicken, carefully place the egg in a 1-liter copper bottom.

In plain language, the sentence would be: When boiling an egg, place the egg in a pot, fill with water and bring to a boil on high heat.

Use Headings and Subheadings to Organize the Information

To help a reader understand the main ideas quickly and simply, use headings and subheadings (as in this article) to convey the key messages and group the information. Sub-headings are helpful when there is a lot of complex information to convey and/or multiple phases or steps to a process.

Provide Self-Assessment Quizzes

To improve the chances of learning with an audience with low levels of English, self-assessment quizzes of multiple choice questions can help them review the materials. This is a great technique when training employees on a very complex process. Start off with the foundational knowledge and test learning before proceeding to more advanced concepts.

These techniques will engage learners with a lower level of English or limited prior knowledge or experience. Writing content in plain English, learners will not be fell overwhelmed by the unnecessary words, complicated messages and information that is poorly organized.

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Author: Christine Bourne

My name is Christine and I'm a professional essay writer. As a hobby, sometimes I write essays on different subjects. I have experience in this field and have helped many people land their difficult tasks! You can only send name of subject and terms of writing!

13 thoughts on “Writing Training Handouts and Presentations in Plain English

  1. Terri Issa

    after any training event, I always provided a training evaluation sheet. That accomplished two things: one, how the training was received and its applicability; second, areas to improve.

  2. Eric Coda

    Thank you Christine for a fine article. Just in time for the holidays and a reminder when we are around guests and family members to use proper language (whether in English or not).

  3. Danny Burkholder

    Sometimes being concise is not a good idea. To reinforce an idea it bears repeating and the use of more words, not less. Otherwise good article. Appreciate your post today.

  4. Lynn Pitts

    Good article Christine. Welcome to General Satterfield’s blog where he only allows those articles that can help us be better leaders.

  5. Doc Blackshear

    I had a boss once that said when we talked to him to never use acronyms. Some of them meant more than one thing and that caused confusion. When you sat down with him one-on-one and used an acronym, you had to tell him what it was so that there was complete clarity.

  6. Darryl Sitterly

    I would like to add to your list and say that cuss words should also not be used. They are simply a distraction from what the leader is trying to communicate. Folks get hung up on certain words that are nasty. Just my opinion.

    1. Drew Dill

      Interesting comment. Darryl, you must have had this as a problem in the past. I certainly did and so I must agree with you.

  7. Army Captain

    I agree with Janna (below) but I think for any broad audience that you should not use special words or acronyms because it will cause confusion. Appreciate your article today Ms Bourne.

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