Course Overview

This course will help you understand and put into daily practice the principles and practices of "Plain Language."

Plain language is information that is focused on readers. When you write in plain language, you create information that works well for the people who use it, whether online or in print.

Our measure of plain language is behavioral: Can the people who are the audience for the material quickly and easily

  • find what they need
  • understand what they find
  • act appropriately on that understanding

This means that the definition of “plain” depends on the audience. What is plain language for one audience may not be plain language for another audience.

Plain language is more than just short words and short sentences — although those are often two very important guidelines for plain language. When you create information in plain language, you also organize it logically for the audience. You consider how well the layout of your pages or screens works for the audience.

Learning Objectives

Upon completing this course you will be well on your way to being able to:

  1. Define what 'plain language' is and is not.
  2. Describe the main elements that make up plain language.
  3. Describe the purpose of plain language.
  4. Explain what people expect when visiting a web site.
  5. List five reasons why plain language should be used.
  6. List four possible consequences of not using plain language.
  7. Explain two goals of plain language.
  8. Explain the primary focus of plain language.
  9. Name four considerations when identifying you audience.
  10. List three questions to ask to ensure the focus is on the reader.
  11. List two considerations to make when organizing for the reader's needs.
  12. Given an example of verbose language, apply the technique of plain language to reduce and clarify the language.
  13. Explain how the use of headings serves a reader's interests.
  14. Explain three benefits of using question-style headings.
  15. Given an example of poor use of plain language, apply the technique of headings to improve readability.
  16. Explain considerations that should be made when writing for the web.
  17. List three rules for writing effective paragraphs.
  18. List three rules for writing effective sentences.
  19. List four benefits of using pronouns.
  20. Explain the proper use of "we", "you", and "I".
  21. Given an example of poor use of plain language, apply the rules of effective paragraphs, sentences and pronouns to improve the material.
  22. Describe two common causes of wordiness.
  23. Given an example of excessive wordiness, apply the use of pronouns to simplify and clarify the example.
  24. Explain two circumstances where the use of pronouns would be inappropriate.
  25. Explain the difference of 'active' and 'passive' voice.
  26. Explain how to identify passive voice in written material.
  27. Identify reasons for not using passive voice in written material.
  28. Given an example of written material with excessive passive voice, apply the rules of active voice to improve the example.
  29. Explain what a 'hidden verb' is and how to identify one.
  30. Given several examples, identify the hidden verbs.
  31. List alternatives to 'shall', 'must not' and 'should'.
  32. List three guidelines for eliminating beauraucratic language.
  33. Identify examples of necessary and unnecessary use of technical jargon.
  34. List four techniques for limiting acronyms and abbreviations.
  35. Given a list of overly complex terms, identify simpler alternatives.
  36. Match a list of complex descriptions to simpler versions.
  37. List four guidelines for ensuring good word placement.
  38. List three reasons for the use of lists.
  39. Explain the guideline for limiting the length of lists.
  40. Given an example of written material, apply the use of lists to improve the example's readability.
  41. Explain how the use of tables can improve the readability of written material.
  42. Given and example of written material, reorganize it using tables to make it easier to understand.
  43. List four online plain language resources.

Minimum Passing Score: No test is provided. A Certificate of Completion is available when all of the lessons and exercises have been completed.

Credit Hours: 3.0

Time to Complete (Approx.): 3 hours

How to Enroll:

This course is "open enrollment". Select the course name in the course list then select the 'Enroll' button at the bottom of the course description page.