How the law defines plain language

Parliament has begun incorporating plain language requirements into legislation. Although compliance is not the only benefit for using plain language it is still an important consideration when communicating. 

The National Credit ActCompanies Act and Consumer Protection Act have essentially the same requirements for plain language. They give some clarity on the expectations for the use of plain language in documents.

  • A document is considered to be in plain language if an ordinary person with an average level of literacy skills and minimal experience in the field can understand the document.
  • In essence you must consider your intended audience and communicate at your audience’s level of literacy and knowledge.
  • The law goes further to say that a person must be able to understand the content, significance and importance of the document and only then is a document considered to be in plain language.

Businesses cannot afford to ignore the requirements of plain language and should take these requirements into consideration when communicating.   

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Why you should choose to use Plain Language

Times have changed. There are ever increasing pressures on businesses to use plain language in communicating internally and externally. 

Simply put, plain language is the use of language that is clear, effective and written without fuss. It is understood by the audience the first time it is read or heard. It is the most effective manner to communicate to ensure the message is not misunderstood. 

For a business the use of plain language has the following benefits:

  1. The audience understands what is being communicated, which in turn reduces uncertainty and frustration.
  2. There are measurable savings on time and costs. It's been shown that the use of plain language reduces helpdesk calls, queries and the duplication of work. The saving on time has a tangible cost benefit for a business.
  3. Compliance with the law and avoiding unnecessary legal costs. The Consumer Protection Act, National Credit Act and the Companies Act (to name a few) have made the use of plain language compulsory for businesses. 

It’s time for businesses to re-look at how they communicate. They must take the use of plain language seriously. Plain language is here to stay. 

By Michele van Eck, Writers Write Consultant 

Michele has a BComm in business management and law, as well as an LLB and an LLM. With specialized qualifications in corporate and contractual law, Michele writes for De Rebus and has co-authored articles for TSAR (a journal for South African law). 

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.