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Elizabeth Claire's E-News

February 2014 E-News from Elizabeth Claire

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Contents of this February E-NEWS

How to write in easy-to-read English

Contents of Easy English NEWS for February 2014


How to write in easy-to-read English

Some people look at Easy English NEWS and think, "It's easy to read, it must be easy to write." But if you've ever worked at it, you'll agree, "It's easy to make something difficult. It's difficult to make something easy."

1. Write out what you want to say in your own natural style.

2. Then go through your document looking for pertinent facts. Cut cut cut until you are left with only the important and necessary information your readers need.

3. Arrange your material in an order suitable to your audience.

4. Insert any introductory material or back ground material that newcomers are likely to need that others take for granted.

5. For intermediate readers of English, rewrite each sentence so it is in the active mode, not passive. Ideally, a sentence will have one subject and one verb. It will have no more than one dependent clause, and only if needed. If you can't avoid a complex sentence, follow it with a short simple sentence. The lower the level of your reader, the harder you have to work to make it comprehensible.

6. Choose words that are within the vocabulary of the reader. This is a gut call, based on years of experience with English language learners at different ages and levels. Or you could use a word frequency list like Michael West's http://www.wordfrequency.info/ or http://www.wordfrequency.info/files/entries.pdf...but that takes many more hours. Plus those are the frequencies of occurrence in written English...they don't refer to the sequence in which new speakers of English might pick up such words.

Be alert to idiomatic language. These may seem easy to read, but the meanings of English's two- or three-word verbs are not clear from each word:: cut that out, trip up, fall for, run against, run into, run out of (food), hold over, fall back, keep in mind, figure out, take over, and 50,000 other idioms.

7. If you need to use words that are not likely to be within your readers' vocabulary, illustrate them with pictures or define them in words that are within their vocabulary.

8. Arrange the sentences in short paragraphs.

9. If your document has more than four or five paragraphs, create headings for groups of paragraphs to alert readers to the content. This also creates white space, the non-native reader's friend.

10. Design the text in short columns, preferably 2.5 inches to 5 inches across to reduce eye movement strain.

11. Use a type face and size that is easy on the eyes. Times New Roman 12- to 14-point type works for Easy English NEWS. Younger readers can benefit from much larger type size...18 point type for age 8, for instance.

12. Justify the left side of the column of text, but leave the right side "ragged", that is, unjustified. This keeps the spaces between words and letters uniform and makes it easier for the eyes to move from one word to the next.

13. Spell check, and then double check with an editor. If you misspell from as form, or him as hem, (or public as pubic, as many writers have done to their later chagrin) spell check won't pick those errors up. Enter the corrections carefully.

14. Read it out loud so your ears can pick up any problems your eyes may have missed.

15. Submit your draft to a reader at the level of your audience to read out loud and give you feedback. This part is crucial, as writers tend to write in more and more complex forms when they get no feedback from their target readers.

16. You can have the readability level checked...A free readability check is Readability-score.com. Just copy your text and place it on their page and instantly you will get a variety of scores. The readability score is probably your best level...keep it over 80.

However, the scales used are only applicable to native English speakers, who will be different from your audience. The scores give readability based on syllable length and words per sentence. The scores are not valid for ESL reading levels. Our older readers can read and understand the word university with no trouble, but may have trouble understanding a word like fine when it refers to a punishment, or play, when it refers to a drama or a play on words.

But the words-per-sentence count can help you. Short sentences, with an average of 8 to 12 words per sentence, raises readability.

The readability check scores do not calculate the ease of reading straightforward word order vs. complex sentence structure. The latter is tough for English language learners, so the tests won't alert you to those difficulties. Nor do they have a mechanism for detecting differences between high-frequency words and low-frequency words. The words gave and rave are considered the same in terms of phonetic difficulty, as are here, mere, and sere. But the English language levels of the words are quite different.


Contents of Easy English NEWS for February 2014

Front page: The Winter Olympic Games Sochi, Team USA, sports and NBC coverage.

Shopping for Groceries, Part 5
: Reading labels on package...brand names, contents, sizes, weights, abbreviations, recipes, prices, unit price, expiration dates

Events in January covered in Easy English NEWS:
    • African-American History Month
    • Groundhog Day
    • Super Bowl Sunday
    • Valentine's Day
    • Susan B. Anthony Birthday
    • Presidents Day: Washington and Lincoln
    • Tax season
In Memoriam: Mariko Sasaki Easy English NEWS' co-founder's contributions to our newspaper and her persistence in making it continue. Mariko's words caused 180 editions of Easy English NEWS.

Addiction in the U.S. part 2: Marijuana laws are changing

Heroes and History: The Right to Vote...for all citizens

With All My Heart: cliches with the word "heart" in them.

Plus our regular features: This Is Your Page (readers' stories), Funny Stuff, Idioms, the Crossword Puzzle, Let's Talk About It, and Word Help.


Click here for a Spring 2014 order form.

Available at Elizabethclaire.com website

Books by Elizabeth Claire:

ESL Phonics for All Ages, Books 1 through 5 with CDs

ESL Teacher's Activities Kit

ESL Teacher's Holiday Activities Kit

Easy English Crossword Puzzles

Classroom Teacher's ESL Survival Kits # 1 and # 2

Kristina, 1904, the Greenhorn Girl

Easy English Crosswords

Just-A-Minute! Speaking Game

Help Your Buddy Learn English


FREE 24-page generic "How To Use Easy English NEWS in Your ESL Classroom" with 9 reproducible graphic organizers. CLICK HERE.

The Constitution in Simple English: Click Here

Hurricane Safety in Simple English: Click Here

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Carry on your good work!

© Elizabeth Claire 2014.
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