Wikibooks:How to write in Simple English
This page tells you how to write in Simple English.
Think about the readers
Remember, this Wikibook is for people learning English, not for people that already know how to read it. In addition to the people that are new to English, some readers may be children, or people with learning disabilities.
For people that are learning English, change words so that they can understand them. For example, "sweat" could be converted into "body water", which may sound funny to a native speaker, but could be easily understood by people that are learning.
- Write your words normally, as you would speak to another person.
- Look for your words in the word lists. Try to use the simplest word list:
- In Basic English Basic English 850 (pictures)
- In Basic English Basic English 1500.
- In VOA Special English Word Book.
- If a word is a name, idiomatic (the meaning of the words is not clear from the roots), or jargon (special words used by experts), then it should be described in more detail. Linking to an article about the word can also help.
- Stephen Hawking is a cosmologist--someone who studies the structure of the universe (stars and space).
- Not all words are encyclopedic. To link to the dictionary definition of a word rather than an encyclopedic article, link to the Simple English Wiktionary using a link like [[wikt:this]] (put your word in place of "this"). For a more complex definition, you may also link to the English Wiktionary like this: [[:en:wikt:this]].
- Change to active voice. Example: change from "The bird was eaten by the cat." to "The cat ate the bird."
- Look for a Basic English verb in past, present or future only.
- For writing special to science or trade, do as asked by the process of w:AECMA Simplified English (see external link below for International Aerospace Maintenance Language).
- After finishing the article, check to have at least one link (to another article in Simple English Wikipedia) and one Interwiki link (to a version of Wikipedia in another language). The first is so the article is not a dead-end article, and the second is so that robots can fill in all the missing links to other language versions.
The example below shows why we do not insist on using only Basic English words. The full English sentence is from Winston Churchill:
Full English: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."
Basic English [BE 850]: "... blood, hard work, drops from eyes, and body water."
- "Blood" is a BE 850 word.
- "Hard work" is good for those who understand English as their mother language. But a learner could understand the word "hard" as "solid" or "difficult to understand". Perhaps "much work" is better.
- "Drops from eyes" sounds strange to people whose mother language is English. "Tears" is a BE 1500 word, and you can use it.
- "Body water" also sounds strange to a person whose mother language is English. "Sweat" and "perspiration" both sound better. "Sweat" is a more common word, and you can use it by linking to the article on sweat. Often, for difficult words that are from Latin (like "perspiration") there will also be a native (Old English or Anglo-Saxon) word like "sweat" meaning the same thing, that is much more common and basic, but this is not always the case.
Another way is to write the more difficult words, but explain what they mean in parentheses if they cannot be linked. For example, write "blood, toil (hard work), tears, and sweat".
What not to do
- Use bad grammar and bad spelling.
- Use bad English: This is Simple English, not Bad English.
- Use idioms (words or phrases that mean something other than what they say).
- Use words you're not sure about without using a dictionary.
- Write articles so short that they offer no useful information.
- Write in the second person. Good encyclopedia articles are never addressed to "you". Do not make statements about "you".
- Put links in titles (or other elements that structure the article). Try to keep the navigation and the structure of an article separate.
For further information, follow guidelines on Simple English Wikipedia, including these:
- E Prime
- Wikipedia:Simple talk - discussion
- Wikipedia:Examples of simpler English
- w:Help:How to change pages
- Wikipedia:Aids for Writing Simple English
- w:Help:Translate English into Simple English
- Ogden's Basic English web site
- VOA Special English official web site
- How to use Microsoft Word to check a document for Basic English
- Online utility for checking Basic English text - supports Basic English and various other dictionaries
- Writing and Publishing Program: online writing and editing courses (from Simon Fraser University)
- WriteIdea: writers' tool for writing simple text. Both java and web-based versions.
- Wordcount, a very rough, but easy to use, guide on how often words are used.