Plain English

Readability guidelines

Plain English can be seen as subjective. What is 'plain' for one individual may not be for another. To design content inclusively, we need to understand 'plain'. We need to make content clear and understandable, to open the web up for users with different literacy levels and access challenges.

1. Do not use formal or long words when easy or short ones will do. Use ‘buy’ instead of ‘purchase’, ‘help’ instead of ‘assist’, and ‘about’ instead of ‘approximately’. Write for the reading comprehension of a 9 year old to reach the most users and to make your content easy to scan.

2. ‘Buzzwords’ and jargon are rarely clear language. Often, these words are too general and vague and can lead to misinterpretation or empty, meaningless text. Avoid them. Instead, think about what the term actually means and describe that. Be open and specific.

Buzzword to plain English example:
"Current mood right now – psyched."
"I am excited at the moment."

Jargon to plain English example:
"Let's touch base in 10 and do some blue sky thinking."
"Let's meet in 10 minutes to discuss our ideas."

3. Write conversationally – picture your audience and write as if you were talking to them one-to-one but with the authority of someone who can actively help.

Usability evidence – legally recognised guidance, usability studies, academic papers

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0

Guideline 3.1 Readable: Make text content readable and understandable.
"Using the clearest and simplest language appropriate is highly desirable."

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

'Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities' p4 Article 2, Definitions
Includes plain language as one of the "modes, means and formats of communication".

Nielsen Norman Group

'Plain Language Is for Everyone, Even Experts' H. Loranger

14 Scribes J. Leg. Writing 121 (2011-2012)

'The Public Speaks: An Empirical Study of Legal Communication' C. R. Trudeau

Related wiki pages

Sentence structure
Sentence length

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