Last month, I wrote a piece for the Government Digital Service blog on the evidence that shows how clear English can help us all to be more effective in our work.
Since then I’ve had lots of people ask to see the online training resources I mentioned. Well, even though some are still a work in progress (please tell me if you spot any errors!), I thought I’d share what I’ve got. They will soon have a permanent home on the Department of Health’s intranet and I’m looking into the best way we can store them publicly too.
One thing I hate doing is reinventing wheels. So some things, like the Department of Health writing style guide, are variations of documents developed elsewhere (thanks to the Department for Education and the GDS Style-guide), or are links to excellent websites which already do the job brilliantly. Others, such as the videos, I’ve made myself.
I hope you find them useful. I’d really love to know what you think of them, how they could be improved and what else you’d find useful. If you have your own resources, please share them. If we all work together I think we can start to make a big difference in the way we civil servants write.
- DH Writing Style Guide – drawing heavily on the Department for Education’s and the GDS’s style guides
- A quote from George Orwell about the questions every scrupulous writer should constantly ask of themselves – one to stick on your desk!
- Punctuation crib sheet – an edited version of one from WikiHow.
- ‘Top Tips For Top Speeches’ handout. While this focusses on speech writing, much of it applicable to any piece of writing
Quizzes and exercises:
- Grammar Quick Quiz – Q&A on everything from grammar to punctuation to poor prose
- Passive to active exercise – Explanation of active and passive with some tests.
- Shortening sentences exercise
These are a work in progress and need a little re-editing. For example, they are called ‘Plain English at work’ rather than ‘Clear English at work’, but the content is good. I’ve also drafted reminders and some quick quizzes – or linked to pre-existing online tests.
- Nouns, pronouns, adjectives
- Verbs and adverbs
- Reminder for nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs
There are more videos on the way. These are the ones I'm currently working on but there should be more to follow:
- Clear English: The evidence
- What is Clear English?
- Writing for your reader
- Testing your work
- How to use www.read-able.com
- Read-able.com – an addictively easy to use tool for measuring how easy your work is to read.
- University of Bristol Faculty of Arts’ excellent ‘Improve your writing’. A stack of explanations of grammar and punctuation with tests and exercises.
- Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips – A great website and regular podcast.
- If you like info-graphics, here are 11 to help with punctuation and spelling.