Plain Language Tips


Communicating in an understandable language is fundamental for meaningful human interaction. When a person does not understand a foreign language spoken to him, there remains an ignorance about the intentions of that person speaking. This same problem can exist when the same language is spoken between two people but not in a clear, understandable way. The meaning or intention can be missed just as well.

In our busy, modern society, few people can read and process information instantly. It is important for us all as readers or listeners to be clear with what we say or write. It is important to communicate it easily enough so that others will understand your message from their first hearing or reading of the text.

Plain language does this by eliminating unnecessary or unknown words, which can lead to confusion or distraction. Plain language saves you valuable minutes by reducing mental translation work.

However, what is plain language for some people is not necessarily plain for another group. But it will prove to be plain language for your target audience if they:

· Understand what they hear or read the first time

· Can follow directions easily

· Can find effective solutions to their questions or needs

Below are key tips for communicating in plain language:

Use One Idea Per Sentence

Break up complex thoughts into easily expressed short sentence units that contribute to the main point. Readers will more effectively track your thinking. People will not absorb the main point because of the distractions of subordinate ideas. Long, complex sentences with connected ideas and supporting clauses are hard to follow.

Avoid Long Sentences

Shorter sentences promote successful communication. Parts of a complex idea are more easily grasped when presented individually. The reader can then build up the simple ideas to the complex idea structure more successfully. A single idea conveyed in one short sentence appears and sticks to the reader’s mind more easily. Readers will see the idea better than reading longer sentences carrying a train of related notions.

Use An Active Voice

Using an active voice easily points out the actor in a sentence. Passive voice sentences can seem evasive regarding significant actors in a contract agreement, for example.

Benefits Of Using Plain Language

There are several important benefits for using plain language in both business and personal communications:

· Plain language is the fastest way to communicate a message clearly

· Plain language will give understanding to the majority of readers

· Most people will not need more explanation when they read your plain language communication

· Studies have shown that pain language communication in business improves workplace understanding and efficiency, which results in time and costs savings


Commercial corporations should be clear when drafting contracts to procure business. Whether these contracts are between business to business or doing business with the federal government, the contractual language should be plain and understandable. Not only does the federal government need to use plain language for its public communications but private enterprises should too.

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