Plain Words


When Sir Ernest Gowers wrote his charming and authoritative ‘Plain Words’, it was expected to serve simply as a guide to proper English usage for the civil service. Within its first year, however, its humorous authorial voice and stylish simplicity had led to the printing of seven editions, and by the end of 1949 it had sold over 200,000 copies. Sir Ernest’s great grand-daughter, novelist and language enthusiast Rebecca Gowers, has worked closely on this edition that both revises and celebrates the original.

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‘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.

Read a sample here

Additional information

Weight 0.237 kg
Dimensions 19.8 × 12.9 × 1.8 cm










New edition


808 (edition:23)


General – Trade / Code: K