Helping out, in award-winning plain English

Last Thursday was the 2012 WriteMark New Zealand Plain English Awards and it was a lovely night out. I was humbled to pick up a Best Plain English Technical Communicator Award of Distinction for content I wrote for the Xero Help Centre.

The awards were decided by a panel of global plain English experts. In a nutshell, here is what the experts look for:

“Plain English is a style of writing in which the language, structure, and presentation of a document all work together to help the reader. A document written in plain English is easy to read, understand, and act upon after just one reading.” – Quote from WriteMark website.

Plain English isn’t about dumbing down content. It’s about smartening it up, so you can quickly find what you’re looking for, and understand it. We know you’re busy. And we know time is money.

Plain English techniques we use to write our Xero Help Centre content are:

  • Short sentences and real, everyday language
  • Text chunked up into short paragraphs and sections
  • Active language, so you know who does what, rather than what gets done
  • Information structured so the most important comes first, and the detail comes last
  • Naming link-text as signposts to other content, and left-aligning them so you can scan them
  • Lots of keywords, so the Help search engine finds the page you’re looking for

You can find our Help Centre directly or through the Xero application menu bar:

Every Xero release introduces new changes for the Help Centre team to write about, and under tight timeframes. It’s no easy task but we love the challenge. We’re committed to writing Help content you can find quickly and easily, and understand.

We’ll continue to write shorter pages – with sections on concepts, tasks, and details – for new features, and gradually rewrite older content using this style.

I encourage you to apply the techniques of plain English too. It really does make a difference.

4 Comments

Gayle Buchanan
December 4, 2012 at 3:27 pm

how cool, congratulations Kylie

La Tisha Richards
December 4, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Well done, how great!

Antonia Haythornthwaite
December 5, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Congratulations! That’s awesome.

Ian Morris
December 5, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Well done Kylie!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Xero staff and partners star in the Xero Band

By Kevin Wood – Direct Sales Manager It’s been two weeks since Xerocon Melbourne and we’re loving all the great feedback that’s come through. It’s fantastic to hear what everyone loved the most. Thanks so much to everyone who attended and helped make it happen! The Xero Band rocks for the fourth year running As ...

New IDC report shows Xero is a global growth leader

Xero is the fastest growing financial applications vendor in the world according to the International Data Corporation’s new report. IDC, a world leader in technology research, recently released their annual report. They report on market sizing and share for finance and financial payroll software providers*. Not only was Xero the fastest growing financial application, it ...