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  • Published: 27 March 2014
  • ISBN: 9780241960356
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 320

Plain Words

The essential and original guide for anyone who wants to express themselves clearly in English

'Be short, be simple, be human.'

When Sir Ernest Gowers first wrote Plain Words, it was intended simply as a guide to the proper use of English for the Civil Service. Within a year, however, its humour, charm and authority had made it a bestseller. Since then it has never been out of print.

Six decades on, writer Rebecca Gowers has created a new edition of this now-classic work that both revises and celebrates her great-grandfather's original. Plain Words has been updated to reflect numerous changes in English usage, yet Sir Ernest's distinctive, witty voice is undimmed. And his message remains vital: our writing should be as clear and comprehensible as possible, avoiding superfluous words and clichés - from the jargon of 'commercialese' to the murky euphemisms of politicians.

In a new preface, this edition draws on an extensive private archive, previously hidden away in family cupboards and attics, to tell the story behind a book that has become an institution: the essential guide to making yourself understood.

  • Published: 27 March 2014
  • ISBN: 9780241960356
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 320

Praise for Plain Words

Gowers's main precepts are as sensible today as they were when he first presented them ... beneficial, intelligent and sympathetic

David Crystal

Rebecca Gowers has been charged with the task of producing a version which is true to the spirit of the original but adapted to the needs of the 21st century. She discharges this task with wit and delicacy

Stefan Collini, Prospect

Over half a century after Plain Words was first published, its principles are as important as ever: say what you mean in the clearest possible fashion. Rebecca Gowers has done a great job ... superb

Caroline Taggart

Vastly informative and indispensable

Bill Bryson

One thing that makes Gowers such an engaging figure is that he isn't prissy, priggish or prim. As far as he is concerned, language is a living thing that is constantly changing - and this is just as it should be

Sunday Telegraph

Itself a model of how plain words should be used


The zeal with which Sir Ernest uncovers error is matched only by the wit with which he chastises it

Evening Standard

The great Sir Ernest Gowers ... the grand old boy himself

Lynne Truss

I am glad that attention should be continually drawn to copies of this book ... I am in full sympathy with the doctrine laid down by Sir Ernest Gowers

Sir Winston Churchill

A small literary jewel

Evening News

A delight, a classic of its kind

John o'London's Weekly

Great fun to read



New Statesman

A sweetly reasonable and wholly admirable guide

The Times

It will delight far wider circles than those to whom it is primarily addressed


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