Editing for plain English: Longer but easier to understand

Nature of edit  To edit the text into plain English

Type of copy  Excerpt from the rules of a professional society


Election of new members
New members shall be admitted to the Society upon election by the committee, such election to be confirmed by a vote of a simple majority of the full members present at a general meeting, but no person shall be presented as a candidate for election without application in writing signed by himself or herself and one full member of the Society and the Regional Training Manager being lodged in the hands of the Secretary at least fourteen clear days before the committee meeting.


Election of members of the Society
For a person to be elected as a member of the Society, 3 things must happen:

  1. At least 14 clear days before a committee meeting, the Secretary must be given an application for membership signed by:
    • the candidate
    • a full member of the Society, and
    • the Regional Training Manager.
  2. The committee must consider the application and decide by a simple majority vote whether to support the candidate's election.
  3. If the committee does support the candidate's election, the next general meeting must consider the application and decide, by a simple majority of the full members present, whether to elect the candidate.

Problem and solution

This is an example of how converting a text to plain English may make it a little longer (112 words compared to 87, in this case) but much clearer. The editor has applied a number of plain-English guidelines, including:

  • making the heading more explicit
  • creating a list format, which makes the conditions much clearer
  • using shorter sentences (the original version being one massive sentence, while the revised version contains four sentences – an average sentence length of 28 words versus 87!)
  • removing unnecessary legal constructions, words and phrases such as 'shall be admitted', 'upon election', 'such election', 'no person' and 'lodged'
  • including some active-voice verbs, for example, 'must happen', 'must consider' and 'does support' (the original contains none)
  • converting nouns to verbs where possible – 'election' to 'elected'
  • using a figure '14' rather than word 'fourteen'.