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What is Plain Language?

Plain language (also called Plain English) is communication users can understand the first time they read it. Language that is plain to one set of readers may not be plain to others. Written material is in plain language if our audience can:

  • Find what they need;
  • Understand what they find; and
  • Use what they find to meet their needs

Plain language means our users can understand your documents more quickly. Users won't call us so much for explanations. They'll make fewer errors filling out our forms. They'll comply more accurately and quickly with requirements. If our customers don't understand our documents, we may have to:

  • Answer phone calls
  • Write explanatory letters
  • Write an explanatory document
  • Litigate

Testing for Plain Language

Reading level algorithms measure how readable your documents are. Use MS Word's "Readability Statistics" to assess and adjust readability.

The Juicy Studio Readability Test analyzes existing web pages.

Readability of this Page

Total sentences27
Total words180
Average words per Sentence6.67
Words with 1 Syllable105
Words with 2 Syllables42
Words with 3 Syllables21
Words with 4 or more Syllables12
Percentage of word with three or more syllables18.33%
Average Syllables per Word1.67
Gunning Fog Index10.00
Flesch Reading Ease59.07
Flesch-Kincaid Grade6.68
Passive Sentences0%

Useful Links

View HTML Page
Active vs. Passive Voice
View External Link
Plain Language: Improving Communications from the Federal Government to the Public
View External Link
Low-Literacy Users (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)

Last Updated: November 3, 2009
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