Click HERE to return to the References for Teaching page.
Click HERE to return to the Communication Skills page.
banner.gif (20700 bytes)
HOW TO WRITE PLAIN ENGLISH

Writing that considers our customers and explains what the government requires and why we require it improves the relationship between the government and the public it serves. It decreases government costs, because our readers understand what we are asking them to do or what they have to do to get a benefit. It also decreases burden on the public, because it takes less time to read and respond to clear material.

On the following pages we'll show you some techniques that will help you to write so your readers can understand what you have to say. Some of the techniques are writing skills--using simple words and phrases instead of unnecessarily complicated and wordy ones. Others are presentation skills--displaying the information in a way that is readable and visually appealing.

Remember these three principles:

  • Use reader-oriented writing. Write for your customers, not for other government employees.
  • Use natural expression. To the extent possible, write as you would speak. Write with commonly used words in the way that they are commonly used.
  • Make your document visually appealing. Present your text in a way that highlights the main points you want to communicate.

We've developed a guidance document, Writing User-Friendly Documents, with the assistance of several private sector partners  We hope this guidance will help you write plain language documents that are understandable by your readers on first reading. 

WRITING USER-FRIENDLY DOCUMENTS

The National Literacy Secretariat, Canada developed a very nice tutorial called "Plain Train."

PLAIN TRAIN

And here's a short document prepared by the Veteran's Benefits Administration (VBA) to help you with emphasis in letters and other documents

GUIDELINES FOR USING LAYOUT AND TYPOGRAPHY TO CREATE EFFECTIVE EMPHASIS  

Here's another helpful document from VBA.  It discusses different ways to test your documents, and when you should use each method. 

TESTING YOUR DOCUMENT