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Plain language – a legal requirement in South Africa

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Plain language – a legal requirement in South Africa

Since The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) came into full effect in April 2011, it’s now against the law to use difficult to understand language in financial and legal documents.


It means all product and service related information, such as websites, brochures and marketing material – must be understandable to ordinary consumers with average literacy skills.

The Act aims to protect consumers against unfair business practices, increase fairness, promote equalityamong consumers and give consumers the information they need to make good decisions.


What is plain language?

Plain language is all about being clear. It’s communication that your reader can quickly and easily understand the first time they read it.


It avoids verbose, convoluted language and jargon, and helps your reader act upon what they are reading.


By focusing on the reader and using simple words and short sentences, plain language writing reaches more people.


In short, plain language is a good writing style.


The benefits of plain language

  1. Confidence – plain language inspires confidence in both the reader and the writer. Clear writing is evidence of clear thinking.
  2. Saves time and money – the clearer your writing the quicker your reader can understand and act upon what they’ve read. It means fewer help calls, and fewer mistakes.
  3. More efficient – effective writing is succinct. Most companies can reduce their documents by up to a third.
  4. More effective – badly written communication doesn’t pay. It leads to increased administration, misunderstandings, frustrated readers and loss of customers.
  5. Increased competitiveness – it builds trust and helps you stand out.
  6. More satisfied customers and staff – the clearer your communication the happier people are.


Plain language is not unprofessional writing or a method of ‘dumbing down’ or ‘talking down’ to your reader.


Clear writing tells the reader exactly what they need to know without using unnecessary words or expressions.


Plain and simple.

Last modified on Monday, 18 March 2013 10:34
James Hurford

James Hurford

James Hurford | Copywriter | Trainer | Coach | Owner of Passion – the copywriting company.
At Passion we specialise in copywriting in plain language for the financial services sector. With over 25 years of experience working for top international companies, we bring a vast amount of knowledge and copywriting expertise to every client we work with.



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