Tuesday, September 5, 2017

12 Tips for Writing Content in Plain Language

Plain language is writing designed to ensure the reader understands as quickly, easily, and completely as possible. Plain language strives to be easy to read, understand, and use. It avoids verbose, convoluted language and jargon


One of the most popular plain language myths is that you have to “dumb down” your content so that everyone everywhere can read it. That’s not true. The first rule of plain language is: write for your audience. Use language your audience knows and feels comfortable with. Take your audience’s current level of knowledge into account. Don’t write for an 8th grade class if your audience is composed of PhD candidates, small business owners, working parents, or immigrants. Only write for 8th graders if your audience is, in fact, an 8th grade class. Make sure you know who your audience is – don’t guess or assume.

The purpose of writing in plain language is so that your audience can:
  • Find what they need;
  • Understand what they find; and
  • Use what they find to meet their needs.

12 Tips for Writing Content in Plain Language:
  1. Write for your reader, not yourself.
  2. Use pronouns when you can.
  3. State your major point(s) first before going into details.
  4. Stick to your topic.
  5. Limit each paragraph to one idea and keep it short.
  6. Write in active voice. Use the passive voice only in rare cases.
  7. Use short sentences as much as possible.
  8. Use everyday words. If you must use technical terms, explain them on the first reference.
  9. Omit unneeded words.
  10. Keep the subject and verb close together.
  11. Use headings, lists, and tables to make reading easier.
  12. Proofread your work, and have a colleague proof it as well.


For additional information, consider attending a workshop under the Educational Events. http://www.weiskopfconsulting.com/education.html

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