Introduction to Plain Language
What is plain language?
Why should I write in plain language?
The five basic steps to the plain language process.
Step 1: Know Your Readers and the Purpose of Your Document
Who are my readers?
When or where will my readers use this document?
What is the purpose of my document?
What do my readers need to know?
What type of document do I need?
Step 2: Make an Outline
Introduce your document.
Organize your ideas in logical order.
Divide your document into short sections.
Put the most important information first.
Use headings and subheadings.
Include a Table of Contents for longer documents.
Step 3: Write or Edit the Text
Use simple, short, clear words.
Write short sentences with just one idea in each sentence.
Use a positive tone.
Use an active writing style.
Write short paragraphs.
Use point form or lists where appropriate.
Step 4: Design Your Document
Use white space to break up the text.
Highlight important information.
Use fonts that people can read easily.
Use photos, charts and other graphics to show information more clearly.
Use colour effectively.
Step 5: Test and Revise Your Document
Read your document out loud.
Ask a co-worker to read your document.
Use computer checks for spelling and grammar.
Do a readability test.
Ask your readers to read your document.
Use comments to revise your document.
Make a final draft.
Alternate Words and Phrases
A list of simple, short, clear words and phrases to replace complex, long, abstract words and phrases.
Nouns to Verbs Word List
A list of nouns that can be changed to verbs. When you change a noun to a verb, rewrite the sentence. This technique often makes the sentence shorter and changes it from a passive to an active style.
Seven writing samples from existing documents. For each sample there is the original version and a plain language version.
Summary checklist of Plain Language Guidelines.