What is Plain Language?

Plain language is communication your audience can understand the first time they read or hear it. Language that is plain to one set of readers may not be plain to others. Written material is in plain language if your audience can:

  • Find what they need;
  • Understand what they find; and
  • Use what they find to meet their needs.

There are many writing techniques that can help you achieve this goal. Among the most common are:

  • Logical organization with the reader in mind
  • "You" and other pronouns
  • Active voice
  • Short sentences
  • Common, everyday words
  • Easy-to-read design features

No one technique defines plain language. Rather, plain language is defined by results—it is easy to read, understand, and use. 

The definition above is from www.plain.language.gov - a resource from the federal government to improve communication to the public

Government Mandates
On June 1, 1998, President Clinton issued an executive memo requiring agencies to write in plain language. Several statutes have also admonished agencies to write certain types of documents in plain language. In 2004, an interagency task force working on behalf of the Office of Management and Budget called for federal websites to be written in plain language. Most recently, President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010, requiring agencies to write in plain language.

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