The Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN) is a group of federal employees from different agencies and specialties who support the use of clear communication in government writing. Originally called the Plain English Network, PLAIN has been meeting informally since the mid 1990s.
Quick Resource Links
- Federal Plan Language Website
- Federal Plain Language Guidelines (pdf)
- Common English Errors by Professor Paul Brians, Washington State University
- Plain Language Planner for Palliative Care (pdf)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Clear Communication Index (pdf)
- Checklist for Plain Language
- Checklist for Plain Language on the Web:
Establishing Digital Usability
On the web, people are in a hurry. They skim and scan, looking for quick answers to their questions. Help your readers quickly find what they need with these web writing tips:
- Less is more! Be concise.
- Break documents into separate topics.
- Use even shorter paragraphs than on paper.
- Use short lists and bullets to organize information.
- Use even more lists than on paper.
- Use even more headings with less under each heading.
- Questions often make great headings.
- Present each topic or point separately, and use descriptive section headings.
- Keep the information on each page to no more than two levels.
- Make liberal use of white space so pages are easy to scan.
- Write (especially page titles) using the same words your readers would use when doing a web search for the info.
- Don’t assume your readers have knowledge of the subject or have read related pages on your site. Clearly explain things so each page can stand on its own.
- Never use “click here” as a link. Link language should describe what your reader will get if they click the link.
- Eliminate unnecessary words.