Simple Plain Language Tweaks to Improve the Experience on Your Utility Website

There is nothing more entertaining than scrolling through Facebook and reading posts that ask elementary aged kids to give life advice for adults. When it comes to advice on how to manage stress daily, their advice always includes “just don’t stress” or “go play outside.” The innocence and simplicity in their words is something that is always bound to make us smile. In a world full of fast-paced technology advancement, we tend to overcomplicate or create stress over basic tasks. ‘Take it easy’ or ‘keep is simple’ has become something that is a lot easier said than done. However, when it comes to content writing for your utility or electric cooperative website, keeping it simple is crucial. Writing in plain language ensures that your audience understands your content the first time they read it. Below are helpful plain language tweaks that can improve user experience on your utility website.

Easy To Follow

Structuring your content is key. Each content section on your site should start by stating your purpose and arranging the rest in a logical order. Put your important and known content first and then follow up with new information. This helps create cohesion between information for your audience. Add practical headings, transition words, bullet points and lists. Break down the “wall of words” into something straightforward for your reader to understand.

Simple Word Choice

Communication is critical, so don’t overcomplicate your word choice. Keep your words simple, direct, and consistent across your site. Avoid technical terms, jargon, or abbreviations that might be hard to understand. Synonyms are great, but not when your audience is trying to understand information quickly. Writing in active voice helps distinguish who is supposed to do what whereas passive voice makes it confusing to the reader who is responsible for what. Choose words that provide clarity and consistency.

Be Brief

Nobody enjoys a waste of time. You can find unnecessary words everywhere, so spend time dissecting your content and determine what is needed. Cut out modifiers and redundant words. Write short paragraphs and short sections. Consider using visuals to get information across quickly. Ensure that when a reader is coming to your site they can find and understand your information efficiently.

Tablet view of PNGC Power history page on their website
This visualized timeline seamlessly tells the story of PNGC’s history, allowing site visitors to easily follow along. With the help of a visualized page, your content will be refreshingly different.

Test It Out

As you’re tweaking and writing in plain language for your utility website, test yourself to make sure you are being clear. Ask yourself “Do I need this word?” or “Could I understand this page quickly?”

Request peers to look over your work and give feedback and test again. Paraphrase testing works well for web pages. Paraphrase testing is a one-on-one session of open-ended questions that gives the participant an opportunity to explain their opinion while you take notes for review later. Testing ensures your audience understands your content.

Whether a five-year-old or a fifty-year-old is visiting your utility site, following plain language guidelines is a win for all. Plain language helps your audience find what they need and understand what they find. As you dig into revisions of your current content or begin writing new content for your site, don’t over complicate this process. Think of how a kid would complete this task – simple and easy and probably while enjoying a popsicle!

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