Plain English editing, writing and training service -
provided by the National Adult Literacy Agency.

What is plain English?

Plain English is a way of presenting information that helps someone understand it the first time they read or hear it.

When you use plain English, you:

  • use clear, concise and accurate language,
  • order your points logically, including only necessary detail, and
  • use clean design to make your writing more attractive and easier to follow.

Plain English is not a one-size-fits-all approach to presenting information or, indeed, an alternative format for only some people. It is about communicating directly to the intended reader or listener in language they understand, whether they are specialists, colleagues or members of the public. Most of us don't like reading through long passages of difficult text to find the main points, so why ask others to do so?

Five reasons why it's worth using plain English

  • It will help you get your message across to the one in four adults who may have literacy difficulties.
  • It can help you produce clearer health and safety notices and similar policy documents for your organisation, so increasing the likelihood of complying with the law.
  • It makes good business sense. Studies have shown that when you use plain English, your reader can better understand your information.
  • You will be able to provide more efficient customer service. Clearer information is shown to improve performance, reduce mistakes and lead to fewer complaints and repeated questions.
  • It's only fair - giving people the information they need in language they understand enables them to make informed choices, access their entitlements and meet their legal duties.

Plain English - before and after

The hospital patient has the right to information relevant to his situation that must allow the patient the fullest insight into all aspects of his situation, medical and otherwise, and, on an informed basis, enable him to make his own decisions or to participate in decisions which have implications for his or her wellbeing.

You have a right to information about your condition that helps you fully understand it and make informed choices about your treatment.