Write For Your Reader The Northwest Territories Literacy Council
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A Plain Language Handbook

Use a positive tone.

Use a positive tone to engage people.

Write: ‘You can apply for a scholarship if you get 80% or more.’
Not: ‘If you don’t get at least 80%, you can not apply for a scholarship.’
Use a negative tone to indicate danger, to warn people, or to dispel a myth.
For example, a booklet might say what to do and what not to do with an oil spill.
Write short paragraphs – one idea each.
Keep paragraphs to 4 or 5 sentences. Put the most important information first.
Break up complicated information. Use different paragraphs for different ideas. Connect the idea in one paragraph with the idea in the next paragraph.
Use point form and lists if appropriate.
Make a list for a group of similar things. Use bullets, arrows, or other small graphics to mark each item on the list.
Give instructions in the order you want them done. Use numbers if appropriate.
Use the same verb or noun form throughout the list.

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