Plain language (and why you should use it)

May 23, 2022

Plain language—also called plain writing or plain English—is communication your audience can understand the first time they read or hear it.

2020 study of 500 Americans found that using plain language in their communications increased reading speed and the ability to understand text. Message retention increased by 40% and message clarity increased by 33%.

To write clear, concise and scannable messages, consider the following plain writing tips in your communications.

  • Avoid jargon and acronyms
  • Use the present tense and active voice
  • Define your audience—Use language they will feel comfortable with.
  • Be concise—Omit any information your audience doesn’t need in order to understand.
  • Organize the information—Start by stating your purpose and the bottom line, follow a logical order, and prioritize the most important information (including any necessary background toward the end).
  • Make it readable—Keep things easy to scan by using accessible typography, descriptive headers and spaces between information.
  • Use simple words and phrases

Examples of plain language swaps:

Instead of… Use…
assistance, assist aid, help
regarding about
provide give, show
implement carry out, start
commence start
additional more, other, different
Due to the fact since, because
in accordance with by, following, per, under
in order that for, so
In the event of if
equitable fair
accurate correct, exact, right
utilize use
validate confirm