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Plain Language
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Garbl's Plain Language Resources is an annotated directory of websites, books, agencies and organizations that can help you use plain language--or plain English--techniques to improve your writing.

Online Resources | Print Resources | Organizations/Agencies


New!

Plain language, also called plain English, is a technique of organizing information in ways that make sense to the reader. It uses straightforward, concrete, familiar words.

Plain language matches the needs of the reader with your needs as a writer, leading to effective, efficient communication. It is effective because readers can understand your message. It is efficient because readers can understand your message the first time they read it.

The international plain-language movement is an effort of businesses, organizations, agencies and individuals dedicated to presenting information so it makes sense to most people.

Plain language is communication designed to meet the needs of the intended audience, so people can understand information that is important to their lives.

Also check out these sections of Garbl's Writing Center:

Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide--A seven-step approach to writing clearly and concisely to meet the needs of your readers. Covers reader and purpose, organization, paragraphs, sentences, words, design and testing. This guide also includes an annotated directory of plain-English resources -- including government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and print and Web references.

Garbl's Concise Writing Guide provides simpler alternatives to wordy, verbose, overstated or pompous words and phrases.

Garbl's Editorial Style Manual--About concise (adj.), concisely (adv.), conciseness (n.).

Garbl's Fat-Free-Writing Links--This Web page provides a variety of online resources with tips to help you cut the fat from your writing--so that your readers can easily chew, digest and be nourished by your top-choice words.


Writing Resources Online

bullet Answering the Critics of Plain Language--by Professor Joseph Kimble of the Thomas Cooley Law School of Lansing, Michigan. 

From Volume 5 of The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing (1994-1995).

bullet Brushing Up on Fundamentals--Peter Butt, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney, Australia

Butt's conference presentation describes the five global fundamentals of plain language and 10 particular fundamentals.

bullet Cheryl Stephens on Plain Language--Plain language trainer, coach, consultant, writer and editor, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

An excellent series of articles, including "Building Plain Language from the Ground Up," "An Introduction to Plain Language" and "Design Issues."

bullet David Elliott on Plain Language--David C. Elliott, Legislative Drafting Services, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Several articles on legislating plain language, making legal documents readable, writing collective agreements in plain language and writing in plain language. Not just for lawyers.

bullet Drafting Legal Documents--U.S. Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration

Besides guidelines for legal document structure, includes advice about ambiguity, clear writing, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, cross references and expressions to avoid.

bullet Federal Plain Language Guidelines--link to PDF and Word documents produced by the U.S. Plain Language Action & Information Network.

"We hope you find this document useful and that it helps you improve your writing - and your agency's writing - so your users can find what they need, understand what they find and use what they find to meet their needs."

bullet From plain English to global English--Rachel McAlpine, writer, trainer and Web content consultant, Wellington, New Zealand

McAlpine takes plain English techniques another step--to making documents easy to read and understand worldwide for people who use English as a foreign language.

bullet Other Web references, Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide--Gary B. Larson

bullet How to write clearly (PDF)--the Translation Service for the European Commission

"Whether your job is drafting or translating, here are some hints--not rules--that will help you to write clearly and make sure your message ends up in your readers' brains, not in their bins."

bullet Plain English at Work--produced for Australia's Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs and the Australian National Training Authority.

Excellent guide for helping organizations develop plain English documents.

bullet Plain English from Plain English Campaign: Free Guides--Plain English Campaign is a privately owned business based in the United Kingdom.

Ten free guides as PDF files, including How to write in plain English, A to Z of alternative words, Plain English guide to writing letters, Plain English tips for clear websites and How to write reports in plain English.

bullet A Plain English Handbook: How to Create Clear SEC Disclosure Documents--U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Not just for writing SEC documents, this downloadable PDF file describes how to free yourself of impediments to effective communications like stilted jargon and complex constructions.

bullet Plain Language: A Handbook for Writers in the U.S. Federal Government (PDF)--Richard Lauchman, The Lauchman Group, Rockville, Maryland.

The organization of ideas, tone, word choice, point of view, format, and overall ease of reading--those are the issues described in the useful handbook.

bullet PlainTrain: Plain Language Online Training--adapted from publications of the National Literacy Secretariat--Human Resources Development Canada.

Eight topic sections on introducing plain language, your reader and your purpose, organizing ideas, using appropriate words, clear and simple sentences, clear and effective paragraphs, design and testing.

bullet PlainTrain: Plain Language Online Training--Digest

A summary of the entire PlainTrain program that's easier to print and view offline.

bullet StyleWriter: The Plain English Editor--Editor Software, United Kingdom

I use and endorse this downloadable software. Running from within leading word processors, it searches for complex words, jargon, abstract words, wordy phrases, hidden verbs, passive verbs, cliches, long sentences and other writing faults. It then offers advice on editing each sentence. Free demo download; full version costs US$160.

bullet Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please--by Professor Joseph Kimble of the Thomas Cooley Law School of Lansing, Michigan. 

How plain language saves agencies and companies money; from Volume 6 of The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing (1996-1997).

bullet Writing Styleguide and Dictionary of Plain English (PDF)--Duncan Kent & Associates Ltd., a technical communication company in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Alphabetical list of difficult words and phrases, word-wasting idioms, compound prepositions, formal phrases, and gender-specific words and phrases--with alternatives.

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Creativity | Writing Process | Grammar | Style and Usage | Reference Sources | Words | Fat-Free Writing| Plain Language | Action Writing | Word Play | Favorite Writers

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Writing Resources On Paper

These books are available through my association with Amazon.com. I own and recommend the books by Bailey, Cutts, Gowers and Lauchman.

line The Complete Plain Words, 2002--Ernest Gowers
line Other Print References, Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide--Gary B. Larson
line Legal Writing in Plain English, 2001--Bryan A. Garner
line Oxford Guide to Plain English, third edition, 2010--Martin Cutts, co-founder of the Plain English Campaign
line The Plain English Approach to Business Writing, 1997--Edward P. Bailey Jr.
line Plain English for Lawyers, fifth edition, 2005--Richard C. Wydick
line Plain English at Work: A Guide to Writing and Speaking, 1996--Edward P. Bailey Jr. (includes The Plain English Approach to Business Writing)
line Plain Language and the Document Revolution, second edition, 1999--Carol M. Baldwin
line A Plain Language Handbook for Legal Writers, second edition, 1999--Christine Mowatt
line Plain Language Pleadings,1996--Carol Ann Wilson
line Plain Style: Techniques for Simple, Concise, Emphatic Business Writing, 2008--Richard Lauchman, author of Plain Language: A Handbook for Writers in the U.S. Federal Government
Plain StylePlain Language ApproachOxford GuidePlain Words

For more books on writing

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Organizations, Agencies and Businesses

The Plain Language Association International, or PLAIN, is the leading voluntary organization of plain language advocates and professionals with members in Canada, the United States, Australia, England, Sweden, South Africa and New Zealand. Besides its free Web resources, it offers a free online email forum for discussing plain language and clear writing.

Below is an incomplete list of other organizations, government agencies and companies campaigning for plain language:

line Center for Plain Language--a U.S.-based nonprofit membership organization of plain-language advocates in government, academia and business
line Clarity--worldwide British-based lawyers' group campaigning for plain legal language
line Impact Information Plain Language Services--Bill DuBay, consultant, Costa Mesa, California
line Other Government and Organization Websites, Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide--Gary B. Larson
line Plain English Campaign--commercial advocacy, training, writing and editing organization based in the United Kingdom
line Plain English Committee, State Bar of Michigan--Plain language columns from the Michigan Bar Journal
line Plain Language Commission--commercial training, writing and editing organization in Derbyshire, United Kingdom
line Plain Language Service, part of the National Literacy and Health Program, Canadian Public Health Association, Ottawa
line U.S. Plain Language Action & Information Network--a government-wide group of employee volunteers working to improve communications from the government to the public
line The Word Centre, Sheffield, United Kingdom--commercial editing and training firm.

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Creativity | Writing Process | Grammar | Style and Usage | Reference Sources | Words | Fat-Free Writing| Plain Language | Action Writing | Word Play | Favorite Writers

Home ] [ Writing Resources Home ] [ Style Manual ] [ Plain English Guide ] [ Concise Writing Guide ] [ Writing Bookshelf ] [ What's New ]

Created and maintained by Gary B. Larson of Seattle, Washington, garbltoo@gmail.com.

Updated July 11, 2012.