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Back to school tricks and tips: plain English

Back to SchoolNext in our Back to school tricks and tips series.

These posts are for our English language learners and are meant to be entertaining as well as helpful. Let me know what you think, or share your stories on Macmillan Dictionary’s Learn English Facebook page or in comments at the end of these posts. Happy learning!

The best communicators use plain English

Did you know that although the English language has up to a million words, native speakers use just 7,500 words for 90% of what they speak or write? We call these words the core vocabulary of English, and they are words that you need to know and be able to use.

English is a wild, crazy language made up of various other languages and is growing all the time. So it’s good to know that there is a manageable number of words that you can aim to learn, understand and learn to pronounce with confidence. Play this red words game and see how many of the words are familiar to you and how often you can guess how many stars a word has (= how frequent it is).

Aiming to use ‘plain English’ means choosing words that are straightforward and clear and not using academic or technological words unnecessarily. A sentence like “Prior to commencing this class, signing of the register will be carried out on a daily basis.” might use a lot of big words but you shouldn’t be impressed! All they’re saying is: Everyone must sign the register before class every day. Other examples of plain English replacements that are worth knowing about are:

buy not purchase
now not currently
now not at present
question not enquiry
between not in between
give or send not submit
because not the reason … is because …

What have we learnt so far: keep it plain but not so plain that you leave out the vowels and end up in txt spk wrld

Next week’s tricks and tips for school: tips for improving and keeping up.

Have a good start to the new term!

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Laine Redpath Cole

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