Plain Language Writing

Plain language writing is reader-focused writing. But what makes something plain language? The Center for Plain Language defines “plain” in terms of people’s behavior: Can the people who are the audience for the material quickly and easily: find what they need understand what they find act appropriately on that understanding?

In 1998, President Clinton made plain language a major government initiative. He wrote:

“By using plain language, we send a clear message about what the government is doing, what it requires, and what services it offers…. Plain language documents have logical organization; common, everyday words, except for necessary technical terms; ‘you’ and other pronouns; the active voice; and short sentences.”

Today, all of us who write can find immediate guidance on the principles of plain language at the government’s website called http://www.plainlanguage.gov/. The issue of NASET’s Practical Teacher is a tip-sheet that comes directly from its how-to’s, tools, checklists, and examples, sometimes even verbatim.

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