Plain English editing, writing and training service -
provided by the National Adult Literacy Agency.

Checking documents

Proofread your document

It is vital that you proofread your document. It is best to do this some time after you have finished writing it - at least an hour later or preferably 24 hours later. This way, you will see it with fresh eyes and are more likely to notice errors. If possible, ask someone else to proofread it too. Pay special attention to:
  • spelling
  • numbers
  • names
  • dates
  • addresses
  • phone numbers, and
  • email addresses

Use a house style

Most organisations have terms, phrases and internal jargon that they use repeatedly. It is very useful to have a 'house style guide' that everyone in your organisation uses. This can include the tips in this booklet and any particular writing or layout standards for your organisation.

To ensure the style guide remains useful, someone needs to be responsible for keeping it up to date and for taking on board suggestions that your staff or customers make as new issues arise. Your house style can deal with specific points like these below.

Test your document with readers

You should test your document to see that people will understand it quickly and easily. Even if it is an internal memo for a small number of staff, it is still worth asking people for their opinion.

People who know nothing about your area are sometimes the best at spotting unclear text. It is also worth testing your document with some of the people who are likely to use it.

Testing may save you money, time and energy in answering questions later or in reprinting costs.

Avoid relying on readability formulas

Some people use readability formulas to calculate how difficult it is to read a piece of writing. You should treat these as broad guides, however, as they do not consider the content of your document, your reader's needs or whether your document helps your reader find information quickly. People are the best judge of any document.