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Plain Language

Your Reader and Purpose


Clear, Effective Paragraphs

Clear, Simple Sentences

Suitable Words

Enticing Design

Testing for Clarity

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Garbl’s Plain Language Writing Guide


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How to write clearly to meet the needs of your readers--and your needs, too!

Plain language is an approach to writing that concentrates on the needs of your readers. Also called plain English, this clear writing approach has international value and use to readers and writers in other languages.

It is ideal for people who write to and for clients, customers, employees, organization members, ratepayers, students, equipment and software users, and taxpayers. It’s beneficial for nonfiction but can aid fiction writing.

Plain language helps us write for people who read at all levels of time, interest, education, and literacy. It also benefits readers with limited English proficiency or learning disabilities.

Plain language principles can help you write clearly and concisely. Plain language matches the needs of your readers with your needs as a writer, leading to effective, efficient communication.

It is effective because your readers can understand your message. It is efficient because your readers can understand your message the first time they read it. That reader focus--combined with logical organization, clear writing, and inviting appearance--is crucial in creating usable, informative documents for you and your organization.

The basics of clear, concise writing apply to all types of documents. Following plain language principles will improve the readability of letters and memos, reports and newsletters, brochures and presentations, instruction manuals and legal documents, and most other materials. The principles also apply directly to writing news releases and websites. And they can help translate English documents into other languages.

Check out the pages below to learn how to improve your writing skills by using plain language techniques:

Also see Garbl’s Concise Writing Guide: Use this guide to help make your documents easier to read and understand. It provides concise alternatives to overstated, pompous words; wordy, bureaucratic phrases; and redundant phrases.

Copyright 2024. Garbl’s Plain Language Writing Guide is managed by Gary B. Larson of Port Townsend, Washington, garbltoo@gmail.com. Please understand that if I respond to your questions about plain language or writing, I may not respond quickly enough to meet your deadline. (If you’re wondering, I’ve never been a cartoonist.)

This page was updated April 3, 2024. I try to keep all the hyperlinks on this website up to date, but please let me know if you find a broken link. Also, whatever their acclaim and position, all writers need editors. I don’t have one for Garbl’s Plain Language Writing Guide, so please tell me if you spot a typo, vague message, or possible error.

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