The PlainLanguagePro standards

The PlainLanguagePro standards recognise that ‘plain language is not just about vocabulary. It involves all the techniques for clear communication — planning the document, designing it, organising it, writing clear sentences, using plain words, and testing the document whenever possible on typical readers.’

Whether a document is plain or not depends on the target audience and the complexity of the content. A document is in plain language if the target audience can:

  • find what they need
  • understand what they find
  • use what they find to meet their needs.

A PlainLanguagePro mark on a document guarantees that the document has been written, edited or revised by a plain language professional exercising appropriate skill. The level of the mark (BRONZE, SILVER, GOLD) shows the type of process used to create the document.

Rules registered with IP Australia

Confidence a document is fit for purpose.

A PlainLanguagePro certification trademark gives document owners (publishers) confidence: they can be sure their documents have been prepared with care, dedicated to meeting the needs of users (readers). Document owners will know their document will communicate effectively and deliver a business benefit.

Potential legal protection

PlainLanguagePro certification trademarks may also provide document owners with a potential defence against a charge of ‘reckless writing’ and related legal action. (The thrust of legal argument is shifting from ‘did you read the document?’ to ‘was the document readable?’)

A tale of two documents


Reckless writing’ refers to preparing a document without exercising a deliberate and considered concern for the intended reader, or class of readers, or a writer failing to apply their mind to consider how the document will be understood.

Why all documents need a PlainLanguagePro certification mark

Report a document with a PlainLanguagePro mark that does not meet the standards

Only an authorised PlainLanguagePro certifier may place a PlainLanguagePro mark on a document.

The PlainLanguagePro standards extend the basic concepts beyond other Plain English certification regimes. The PlainLanguagePro standards also consider user focused development processes and testing the effectiveness of the final document.

Standards
Content is (usually) ordered in a ‘point first’ or ‘pyramid’ structure. YES YES YES
Uses familiar, short words in preference to complex words. YES YES YES
Not wordy, using only the number of words required to express an idea. YES YES YES
Includes more active voice expressions than passive. YES YES YES
Uses verbs rather than nouns made from verbs. YES YES YES
Most sentences convey a single idea. YES YES YES
Uses a conversational style. YES YES YES
A readability score reflecting the reading ability of the target audience. YES YES YES
Includes user research in the document planning and preparation stage YES YES
Incorporates user research in the document structure, content and style. YES YES
Includes user testing to confirm the document addresses user needs and preferences YES
Testing shows the document works to achieve the intent of the document owner. YES