What do we mean by plain language?
A communication is in plain language if its wording, structure, and design are so clear that the intended readers can easily find what they need, understand what they find, and use that information.
The definition of “plain” depends on the audience. What is plain for one audience may not be plain at all 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 on that understanding
Plain language is more than just short words and short sentences – although those tactics are important guidelines for clear communication. 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. You anticipate their questions and needs.
Each year, the Center for Plain Language helps reduce more headaches than Tylenol, Motrin, Advil and Aleve combined.
A bold claim? Maybe.
Think about the headaches you’ve endured over the years as you tried to plow through poorly written and designed materials like these from businesses and the government:
- Terms and conditions
- Mobile apps
What does the Center do?
- Hold training workshops on plain language topics. We do this annually in Washington, DC in conjunction with the ClearMark awards. In other parts of the country, we work with local co-sponsors.
- Advocate for the passage of legislation that promotes plain language
- Grade government agencies’ writing with annual Report Cards
- Celebrate best examples of plain language and design with annual ClearMark Awards (since 2010)
- Publicize bad writing with the WTF Awards
- Connect people who care about clear communication
- Provide opportunities for members and colleagues to learn new skills and grow professionally
We champion clear communication so people and organizations can thrive.
Vision for the future
Create a culture of clarity
Every audience * Every format * Every time
The Center for Plain Language, a non-profit organization, helps government agencies and businesses write clear and understandable communications. The Center supports those who use plain language, trains those who should use plain language, and urges people to demand plain language in all the communications they receive, read, and use.