Plain Language and Accessibility
"Plain language makes it easier for the public to read, understand, and use government communication" - Plainlanguage.gov
What is plain language and why is it important?
Writing in "plain language" means that you are writing for a general audience to understand your material. This means writing in a way that is clear, concise, and free of technical jargon that a the average reader may not understand in context. By writing in plain language, you are helping give your readers the clarity they need to understand and use the information you are presenting to them. Writing in plain language is a skill that takes time to practice and improve but doing so will expand your audience reach.
What does plain language have to do with accessibility?
By using plain language, you increase the likelihood someone will understand your messaging. Specifically, writing in plain language increases the ability for people with cognitive or intellectual disabilities to access your programming. People who benefit from plain language includes anyone with a disability that effects their reading ability, their cognition, or their overall comprehension.
Plain language does not mean over-simplification
Plain language doesn't mean you lose detail or nuance. You can still include details without "dumbing down" your message.
Writing in plain language should increase audience access to your work while not leaving out any of the substance.
Plain Language Best Practices
- Be concise
- Use active voice
- Identify (and write for) your audience
- Organize your document in a logical reading order
- Use short sentences and paragraphs
- Be wordy
- Give people a large block of text to wade through - break it up into digestible sections
- Use technical jargon and acronyms
|Don't write this
|Copies of tax returns must be provided.||You must provide copies of your tax returns.|
|Submission of applications.||How do I apply?|
|The Office of Consumer Affairs will process your application within 30 days after receipt.||We'll process your application within 30 days of receiving it.|
|Once the candidate's goals are established, one or more potential employers are identified. A preliminary proposal for presentations to the employer is developed. The proposal is presented to an employer who agrees to negotiate an individualized job that meets the employment needs of the applicant and real business needs of the employer.||Once we establish your goals, we identify one or more potential employers. We prepare a preliminary proposal to present to an employer who agrees to negotiate a job that meets both their and your employment needs.|
|Bonds will be withheld in cases of non-compliance with all permits and conditions.||We will withhold your bond if you don't comply with all permit terms and conditions.|
Find more examples of plain language use by visiting Plainlanguage.gov.
Still need help?
Let us know! We are happy to help make your content more accessible.
Madison Ellis, Accessibility Specialist
Amy Cole, Digital Media Manager