Plain language is grammatically correct and universally understood language that includes complete sentence structure and accurate word usage. Plain language is not unprofessional writing or a method of “dumbing down” or “talking down” to the reader.
“A communication is in plain language if its wording, structure, and design are so clear that the intended readers can easily find what they need, understand what they find, and use that information.” – International Plain Language Federation
Writing that is clear and to the point helps improve all communication as it takes less time to read and comprehend. Clear writing tells the reader exactly what the reader needs to know without using unnecessary words or expressions. Communicating clearly is its own reward as it saves time and money. It also improves reader response to messages. Using plain language avoids creating barriers that set us apart from the people with whom we are communicating.
Plain language is clear, concise, organized, and appropriate for the intended audience.
- Write for your reader, not yourself.
- Use pronouns when you can.
- State your major point(s) first before going into details.
- Stick to your topic.
- Limit each paragraph to one idea and keep it short.
- Write in active voice. Use the passive voice only in rare cases.
- Use short sentences as much as possible.
- Use everyday words. If you must use technical terms, explain them on the first reference.
- Omit unneeded words.
- Keep the subject and verb close together.
- Use headings, lists, and tables to make reading easier.
- Proofread your work, and have a colleague proof it as well.
Plain Writing Act of 2010
Plain Language: How to Simplify Content for a Better Reader Experience
Center for Plain Language
Plain Language Association International
Plain Language Writing — An Essential Part Of Accessibility
A guide for implementing plain language in your content
ProPublica experiments with ultra-accessible plain language in stories about people with disabilities
Plain Language Principles
Plain Writing Checklist
International Plain Language Federation
Plain language around the world
What is plain language?