Step 1: Think about your reader


​Know who you are writing for and why​​

No matter what type of document you're writing, from a short email to a long report, it's important first to be clear about your reader.

  • Who are you writing this document for?
  • Why are you writing it?
  • What action do you want them to take? Is there something you want them to do, think or feel as a result of reading or hearing it?
  • Is there more than one reader or group of readers? If so, do you need to write separate documents?

For longer documents, you might find it useful to write a brief plan before you start.

Write for your reader

The first step in writing and speaking in plain English is to put yourself in your reader's shoes. Keep their interests in mind and ask the following questions when writing your document.

  • How familiar are they with the words and terms you are likely to use?
  • What subjects can you assume they understand?
  • How will they read the document? Will they read it straight through or skip through to the sections that interest them?
  • Will they need any background information?
  • Do you need to explain any details they may not be familiar with?