Plain Language Resources

Writing in plain language is not only about what is written but also about how your message will be received by your reader. It goes beyond simple words and short sentences. Clear communication is important to everyone from people with English as a second language to busy professionals.

Plain language means no one is excluded.

It is fair, open, and inclusive. The focus is to write to communicate rather than impress. A plain language document is one in which people can:

Plain language writing is not anti-intellectual, drab, or “dumbed down”. It enhances the message and takes skill and hard work.

Reading Grade Levels

The appropriate reading level for printed material depends on the audience. A technical article written for people with specialized training could be written at a higher grade level than an information pamphlet for the general public. Know your audience!

[column]General Guidelines[/column]
[column]Grade Level[/column]

[column]Specialized info for informed audience[/column]

[column]Material written for the general public[/column]

[column]Material written for the general public including people whose first language is not English[/column]

Most newspapers are written at a grade 6-8 readability level.


[quote style=”5″ author=”from Forget the Wind Up and Make the Pitch”]Do not write your document like a mystery novel in which the conclusion is revealed only at the end. Give the context before discussing the details.[/quote]


Checking Readability in Microsoft Office Word

  1. While your Word document is open, click on File, then click Options.
  2. Click on Proofing.
  3. Under “When correcting grammar in Word” select “Show readability statistics” box.
  4. Run the document through Spell Check to see the Flesch Kincaid reading ease and grade level.

word_readability_enable word_readability_enable2


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Online Resources

Plain Train Online Training

Clear Lines: How to Compose and Design Clear Language Documents for the Workplace, 1991

Plain Language Thesaurus for Health Communications, 2007

Plain Language Links, The Centre for Literacy, Quebec