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Clear phrasing

Avoid the following where possible:

 

Jargon

As well as the Eurojargon you may be familiar with, there are other types of jargon:

 

Legal jargon

Wrong approach 

Correct approach

provisions regulating the carriage of goods

rules on transporting goods
economic operatorbusiness, trader, company, etc.
 

Fashionable business/political terms

Wrong approach 

Correct approach

stocktaking

review
mainstreaming [e.g. this approach]

establishing [this approach] across the board…

establishing [this approach], in all policies
 

Uncommon Latin terms

Wrong approach 

Correct approach

inter alia

Various alternatives:

e.g.

such as

including

among other things

one of the things …is
in finefinally, in short, in summary
 

False friends

In the EU context, these are mainly English words that are misused, because there is an equivalent word in French – even though the meaning is different.

Examples of false friendspdf.

 
 

Tips

Acronyms

This depends how familiar your likely readers will be with the particular acronym.

With less-common acronyms, even spelling it out in full the first time you use it is not enough – acronyms are inherently unclear, and repeated use throughout a text forces readers to continually cross-reference.

There are other ways of shortening long names:

Wrong approach 

Correct approach

Cedefop

European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (or, after the first mention, simply “the Centre”)

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Use the active voice (not the passive)

  • The active voice makes text clearer (and more engaging) because it identifies the actors in the sentence.
  • It introduces the action at the earliest stage, so readers can work out what’s happening.
  • It puts the actions in the order they happen, so readers can follow the logical sequence of events.

Wrong approach

Correct approach

Complaints may be submitted to the Commission in writing
(not clear who will submit)

You can submit a complaint to the Commission in writing
(even better: “You can complain to…")

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Avoid using the third person

Where possible, write as if having a conversation with your users – so refer to them as "you", and your organisation as "we". As well as being more engaging, this makes it very clear WHO has to do WHAT (key information for your users).

Wrong approach

Correct approach

Complainants must quote the case number of the complaint in any correspondence

Please mention your complaint number every time you write to us

Also – consistently referring to ourselves in the third person seems self-important and can be misleading by giving the impression that there is a third party involved.

Wrong approach

Correct approach

If the Commission considers that there may be an infringement of Community law which warrants the opening of an infringement procedure, it addresses a "letter of formal notice" to the Member State concerned, requesting it to submit its observations by a specified date.

If we believe the breach may have been severe enough to justify us taking formal action, we will formally notify the authorities concerned in writing (in a "letter of formal notice"), asking them to respond by a certain deadline

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Be explicit: choose simple, concrete words

Be explicit – use concrete, simple words, rather than academic terms. This is not dumbing down, but rather ensuring we don't overestimate readers' knowledge.

Wrong approach

Correct approach

employment opportunities

jobs

investing in human capital

(workforce) training / improving (workers’) skills / training and education

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Rhetoric/spin

Stay objective/neutral/factual – it will really help the credibility of what you write.

Wrong approach

Correct approach

Solidarity is the hallmark of European culture.

Europe has a history of helping other countries and groups in need.

Our vision to maintain and support a robust indutrial base in Europe…

Our plan to keep industry in Europe…

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Use verbs (not nouns)

  • Verbs describe the action rather than hiding it in nouns.
  • They engage readers and are more direct, concrete and conversational than nouns.

Wrong approach

Correct approach

The President decides on the internal organisation of the Commission

The President decides how the Commission’s work is organised

Since the accession of Poland to the EU

Since Poland joined the EU

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Avoid negative sentences

These can often make the sentence difficult to understand (especially when double negatives are used.

Wrong approach

Correct approach

for not less than one year

for at least a year

… if they have not lost their entitlement to vote in their country of origin

… if they are still entitled to vote in their country of origin

does not comply with

infringes

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Capital letters – don't overuse

This makes text seem self‑important and is harder to read. All of the following are quite acceptable:

Wrong approach

Correct approach

Documents, policy areas

environment white paper, information society
technologies

Titles of programmes, events, bodies

European year of equal opportunities, 7th research framework programme, environment summit / conference, German presidency, delegation

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Use short, simple sentences

The general aim should be no more than one subordinate clause per sentence.

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