The plain language process

Step 1: Know your readers and purpose.

  • Who are your readers?
  • What do they need to know?
  • What do you want them to do?

Step 2: Organize. Make an outline.

  • Is the most important information first?
  • Are sections in logical order? Do headings describe them?
  • Do readers know right away what the document's about?
  • Can readers find information they need?

Step 3: Write or edit.

  • Are the words simple, short, and clear?
  • Is there just one idea per sentence? Are sentences short?
  • Is the tone positive? Active writing style?
  • Are the paragraphs short? With bullets or lists where appropriate?
  • Are the extras left out?

Step 4: Design your document.

  • Does white space break up the text?
  • Is important information highlighted?
  • Can people read the style and size of font?
  • Do charts, photos or other graphics help?
  • Is colour effective?

Step 5: Test and revise.

  • Did you get feedback from a sample of your readers?
  • Did you read the document out loud?
  • Did you do a readability test?
  • Did you ask a co-worker or plain language specialist to read your document?
  • Did you revise your document based on different tests?