I was reading the latest Ontario Power Authority’s NewsOn-line newsletter
and it had a terrific example of plain language principles
that I thought I must share with you. It was a story about the recent rain
storm that hit Toronto, dumping the most one-day rainfall ever recorded in
The paragraph in the story that made me cheer was this:
About 100 millimetres (four
inches) of rain fell during the storm that struck during the evening commute on
July 8. It is the heaviest one-day rainfall recorded in Toronto.
Why do I love that simple two-sentence paragraph? Because it
helped me understand what 100 millimetres of water is – it’s about 4 inches. I
can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read recently about flooding in Alberta,
for example, that have only provided the rainfall in millimeters – a concept I
simply can’t wrap my mind around. (I know I should be able to comprehend what a
millimeter is, since Canada uses the metric system. But, I grew up in the
non-metric world and so a millimetre of water simply doesn’t mean much to me.)
By including that additional information in simple
parentheses the writer helped me – and I suspect many other readers – immeasurably.
And, as you can see – the additional parenthetical information didn’t disrupt
the flow of the story or add much to the length.
That’s good business writing!
Plain Language writing is all about expressing information
in ways so that different readers can understand it.