Claiming something is written plainly does not make it so

I came across this sentence recently:

The text provides, in plain English, an overview of what is necessary to give effect to a valid advanced care directive, and through illustrative and contemporary examples, enhances our understanding of the importance of “planning ahead”.

I don’t think many plain language professionals would say this is plainly written, despite the claim. When you have written plainly, you do not need to tell people you have done so – it will be obvious to your readers. They will be engaging with your ideas, not your writing. (reminds me of one of my other guiding principles: Never trust anyone who has to say “Trust me”.)

Some particular problems:

  • ‘to give effect to’: This is an uncommon and somewhat pretentious phrase, likely to put many readers off. Its use is unclear – it has the immediate sense of ‘how to write an advanced care directive’, but the literal meaning is ‘when your advanced care directive becomes operational’.
  • ‘an overview of what is necessary’: Too wordy.
  • ‘enhances our understanding of the importance of’: Too wordy.
  • ‘illustrative and contemporary’: Big words where small ones will do.
  • Many ideas in a sentence that is too long. As a rule of thumb: one point, one sentence.

A possible rewrite:

This booklet explains how to make an advanced care directive. The examples show how planning ahead is very important.

Can you provide a better rewrite? I’ll leave this post open for comments for a while.

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