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.