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BADM 225: Professional Communication for Business

Chester Fritz Library guide on plain language

What is plain language?

When you write in plain language, readers should be able to easily find what they need and understand it the first time they read it.

Plain language uses:

  • Common everyday words
  • Active voice
  • Short sentences
  • You and other pronouns
  • Lists and tables
  • Easy-to-read design features

Plain language avoids any kind of jargon or discipline-specific words. Examples include:

  • Legal jargon
  • Medical jargon
  • Technical jargon

Plain language is not: 

  • An attempt to make your writing folksy or simple
  • Removing necessary information
  • Polishing your writing
  • Easy
  • Something only specific fields use
    • Everyone should know how to write in plain language

Why use plain language?

Plain language saves the reader time. We are all busy, and plain language helps the reader find the information they need quickly. It also makes information or instructions easier to understand and makes life easier for the public. 

In addition, it saves you from having to:

  • Answer phone calls 
  • Write letters or documents 
  • Litigate 

If readers can easily understand what you're trying to communicate, it will save you time and energy. It will get your message across in a short period of time. Readers will be able to understand and follow your directions clearly. 

Plain Writing Act of 2010

The Plain Writing Act of 2010 states plain language as: 

Writing that is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience.