Principle 1. Do readers get what they need?
1. Audience identification: Does the entry reflect a thorough understanding of intended readers, including their language skills, cultural backgrounds, and subject-matter knowledge?
2. Audience purpose: Does the entry reflect a thorough understanding of why intended readers should read it, whether they aim to complete a task, make a decision, understand a topic, or achieve some other purpose?
3. Content: Does the content of the document fit readers’ needs and purpose, addressing the questions readers need answered, omitting irrelevant information?
4. Ethics: Do you sense the authors want readers to succeed, including providing content that is accurate – not misleading or incomplete?
5. Overall audience understanding and content score:
Principle 2. Can readers easily find what they need?
1. Structure: Does the entry arrange information to best fit readers’ needs, grouping related information together, locating the most important information where readers will quickly see it, and – if there are multiple audiences – identifying what information is addressed to each audience?
2. Flow: Does the entry sequence information in a way that will make sense to readers, with new information building on information readers already know and any instructions or processes presented in chronological order?
3. Typography and formatting: Does the entry’s use of typography, formatting, and visuals – including fonts, sizing, color, bolding, bullets, numbering, indentation, and imagery – make it easy for readers to find what they need?
4. Headings: Does the entry use effective headings that enable readers to predict content and scan to get the “big picture”? (Note: in the rare instances when an entry does not use headings because the document is better for readers without them, it should earn the highest mark for this question.)
5. Overall findability score:
Principle 3. Can readers easily understand the entry?
1. Words: Does the entry use words that are familiar to readers, avoiding jargon while explaining on first use any terms or abbreviations that readers would not know but need to know?
2. Sentences and paragraphs: Does the entry use clear and concise sentences and paragraphs that clarify what is happening and who is doing what?
3. Addressing readers directly: Does the document speak directly to readers using the personal pronouns “you” and “your” – or the imperative mood, if appropriate? (Note: imperatives are commands or instructions in which “you” is the implied but unstated grammatical subject, as in, “Follow these five steps.”)
4. Images and multimedia: Does the entry use images or multimedia to make information easier to understand, while avoiding images or multimedia that distract or serve primarily as decoration? (Note: if an entry does not use images or multimedia because the document is better for readers without them, it should earn the highest mark for this question.)
5. Tone: Do words, sentences, images and other document elements create a tone that is respectful to readers?
6. Overall understandability score:
Principle 4. Can readers easily use this entry?
1. Editing: Is this an error-free entry in which all elements work together to form a unified whole?
2. User testing: How well did the team evaluate the entry before publishing or sending it– ideally testing it with users– and revise the entry based on the evaluation results? (If there is no discussion of testing, the entry should receive the lowest score for this question.)
3. Success measurements: How well did the team measure the success of the entry, in terms of enabling readers and the organization to achieve their goals? (If there is no discussion of success measurements, the entry should receive the lowest score for this question.)
4. Entry as plain language model: To what degree is this entry a model of effective plain language?
5. Overall usability score:
|5 – Excellent||
A thought provoking and inspiring example of plain language. Masters all of the principles. Judges will want to tell others about this work.
Distribution: The top 10 percent of the work we review.
|4 – Above Average||
Not much room to improve. Applies plain language principles consistently and effectively.
Distribution: 20 percent of the work we review.
|3 – Average||
A competent example of plain language. Some more focus could significantly improve the execution.
Distribution: The middle 40 percent of the work we review.
|2 – Below Average||
Uses some, but misses most of the principles of plain language. Some, but not all, principles may be misunderstood or misapplied.
Distribution: 20 percent of the work we review.
|1 – Needs Work||
Something significantly misses the mark. Principles and insights from testing may be misapplied.
Distribution: The bottom 10 percent of the work we review.