What is plain language?

Plain language is reader-focused writing. When you write in plain language, you create material (for print or online) that works well for the people who use that material.

The definition of “plain” depends on the audience. What is plain language for one audience may not be plain language for another audience.

Our measure of plain language is behavioral: 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?

Plain language is more than just short words and short sentences – although those are often two very important guidelines for plain language. When you create material in plain language, you also organize it logically for the audience. You consider how well the layout of your pages or screens works for the audience.