Don’t confuse plain language with tone

What is plain language?

Plain language means presenting information in a way that your target audience can understand and use. It is a set of linguistic principles that you apply, for example:

  • simple syntax
  • active voice
  • a user-focused information structure
  • clear headings  
  • no culturally bound words or metaphors

For example: the metaphor, ‘we wash our hands of jargon’ shows a conversational tone but is not plain language. ‘We don’t use jargon’ is a better way of writing this in plain language.

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An example of plain language in an employment contract

A before-and-after example of a plain-language rewrite

There are many ways to write legal content in plain language. Here’s a before-and-after example of a clause from an employment contract. In this case, we kept the tone quite formal and conventional. While the tone might change with context, all #contracts should be written in #PlainLanguage.

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