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Plain Language

Plain Language at NIH

Plain language is grammatically correct language that includes complete sentence structure and accurate word usage. Plain language is not unprofessional writing or a method of "dumbing down" or "talking down" to the reader.

Writing that is clear and to the point helps improve communication and takes less time to read and understand. Clear writing tells the reader exactly what the reader needs to know without using unnecessary words or expressions.

Cartoon showing a man and his doctor. The doctor is saying, 'Well, yes, I suppose I could explain the test results in 'plain English' -- but then you'd know how sick you are'

Communicating clearly is its own reward and saves time and money. It also improves reader response to messages. Using plain language avoids creating barriers that set us apart from the people with whom we are communicating.

Part of the NIH mission is to reach all Americans with health information they can use and to communicate in a way that helps people to easily understand research results. The NIH fully supports the Plain Language initiative, which has its origins in a Federal directive that requires agencies to incorporate plain language elements in the development of communications materials for the public. The NIH is committed to the use of plain language in all new documents written for the public, other government entities, and fellow workers.

Plain Language: Getting Started or Brushing Up

Thumbnail image of 'Getting Started or Brushing Up' tool

Use this handy tool to learn about using plain language in your work.

Plain Language Act

President Barack Obama signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010 (H.R. 946/Public Law 111-274) on October 13, 2010.

The Act requires the federal government to write documents, such as tax returns, federal college aid applications, and Veterans Administration forms in simple easy-to-understand language…”

Read the Act (PDF - 156KB) External Web Site Policy

This page last reviewed on August 23, 2013

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