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.
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.
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.
|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|