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9 Examples of Plain Language

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Plain language is clear, succinct writing or speech designed to be understood. This avoids verbosity, jargon, obscure slang and needless complexity that make language less accessible to a wide audience. Plain language is also associated with directly stating facts and quickly getting to your point. The following are common examples of plain language.

Wide Audience

Plain language is crafted to be understandable to as wide an audience as possible. Avoid the assumption that concepts and vocabulary that feel obvious to you are obvious to everyone.

Common Language

Use common vocabulary and avoid obscure language such as acronyms and jargon.

Direct Language

State your point directly without ambiguity. In some cases, ambiguity is used when a speaker or writer is unsure about a topic and is trying to avoid being wrong. Direct language requires intellectual courage whereby you state what you know and what you don't know.

Active Voice

Avoiding passive voice such as "the meal was cooked by the chef" and instead use active voice such as "the chef cooked the meal."


Break information into sections with helpful headings.


Lists are easy to comprehend and can be communicated in sentences or broken out into bulleted or numbered lists. It is also possible to present information as structured lists such as comparisons or lists of pros and cons.

Be Concise

All else being equal, shorter communications are easier to comprehend. However, this doesn't mean that you need to cut out examples or other information that may help people to understand.


It is often claimed that short sentences are easier to understand than long ones. This isn't exactly true. Short sentences are good for making a clear statement but are hard to read if you put many short sentences side by side. Long sentences flow and feel comfortable such that they are an important element of clear communication.


Giving examples is an important way to make your communications more understandable to a broad audience. Counterexamples can also be helpful.

Plain Writing Act

In some cases, governments and other organizations mandate plain language or encourage it as part of their organizational culture. For example, the Plain Writing Act of 2010 is a United States federal law that requires government agencies to use plain language.


Plain language is the practice of communicating with intent to be understood by a broad audience. This may sacrifice other priorities such as being precisely accurate or demonstrating the extent of your knowledge and authority in a subject area.


The use of complex language such as corporate jargon, industry acronyms, legalese and technobabble can make it difficult for citizens and customers to access services. It can also increase support costs as customers need to call you to understand your communications.
Overview: Plain Language
Language that is designed to be clear and succinct.
Wide accessibility. In some cases, government agencies are required to use plain language to improve accessibility of government service information.
Plain language is pleasing to an audience that wants information without flowery speech.
Advertising that seeks to get an idea across to a wide audience within limitations such as ad space.
Related Concepts
Next: Communication Complexity
More about plain language:
Plain Language
Soft Skills
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