Light Bulb Moment: Dalton Leong on the importance of plain English

A key insight into the working life of the chief executive of the brain injury charity the Children's Trust

Dalton Leong
Dalton Leong

Shortly after I moved into the third sector, I was asked to approve a letter thanking someone for a financial contribution. It proved a defining moment for me. After 21 years in the banking sector, I was used to people using complex language – and this letter did just that – in a bid to impress. The message was obscured by convoluted phrases and the use of too many superlatives. Rather than actually saying "thank you", it seemed insincere and confusing because the tone and content were all wrong.

It was a lesson to me in the importance of using plain English and of keeping our communications simple. We have a responsibility to cut the jargon and put across our message with simplicity – whether that's a personal letter or formal guidance – so that it can be easily understood and the risk of misinterpretation is reduced. The families that we work with are dealing with their children's brain injuries; they have to wade through enough technical and medical information and decipher what it means, so they don't need to receive it from us as well. Our staff, volunteers and donors should also be spared the jargon.

We aim for our communications to be understood easily by everyone. We can remain professional without unnecessary terminology, convoluted language and complex phrases.

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