> What is plain language?

> What's the difference between plain language and plain English?

> Is plain language a new thing?

> What types of documents should be written in plain language?


What is plain language?

Plain language involves making sure that documents are written in the most direct and clear way so that readers can easily understand and use the information. It removes jargon and unnecessary official, legal or bureaucratic wording. It replaces lengthy, complex sentences with concise ones. It pays attention to design and layout of documents to make them as accessible as possible. Plain language is a vital tool for clear communication.

What's the difference between plain language and plain English?

Very little. When this concept first came into being it was commonly referred to as plain English. But English is just one language among many in countries that have put the principles of clear communication into practice. For instance, there is a plain Swedish movement. As an international impetus grew, the term plain language became more common.

Plain language is an inclusive term. It provides scope for languages other than English and it also encompasses aspects of clear communication such as good design and layout of documents.

Is plain language a new thing?

No. Plain language has been advocated and used for over two decades in Australia and internationally. One of the first companies in Australia to promote plain language was the NRMA (one of the largest motoring associations in Australia) who introduced a plain English car insurance policy in 1976. It got rid of the old style legalese and turned it into a user-friendly, understandable document. In 1977, the New South Wales Real Estate Institute produced a plain English tenancy agreement. In 1986 and 1990, the Law Reform Commission of Victoria produced two landmark reports on plain legal language which had significant community impact.

A wide range of Australian and international organisations have adopted a plain language approach to their communication. It has been applied to insurance policies, finance agreements, legal contracts, legislation, public information distributed by government departments, and forms of all types from credit card applications to hospital admission forms.

What types of documents should be written in plain language?

When written in plain language, all types of written communication stand a much better chance of getting their message across effectively. These documents are improved through the use of plain language:

Letters, memos, emails
Policy documents
Procedure manuals
Submissions and tenders
Brochures and newsletters
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