Checklist for Plain Language

Plain Language Plain Language
  • written for the average reader

  • organized to serve the reader’s needs

  • has useful headings

  • uses “you” and other pronouns to speak to the reader

  • uses active voice

  • uses short sections and short sentences

  • uses the simplest tense possible—simple present is best

  • uses base verbs, not hidden verbs

  • omits excess words

  • uses concrete, familiar words

  • uses “must” to express requirements; avoids the ambiguous word “shall”

  • places words carefully (avoids large gaps between the subject, the verb and the object; puts exceptions last; places modifiers correctly)

  • uses lists and tables to simplify complex material

  • uses no more than two or three subordinate levels

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