Using Plain Language to Write for the Web

Sep 16, 2015
A signpost showing signs pointing in opposite directions; one says, simple, and the other says, complicated.

Plain language will make you a better writer. For federal employees, it’s also the law.

On September 9th, Katherine Spivey, Co-Chair of the Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN), presented a webinar on plain writing principles and how to apply them to Web writing. She also addressed how federal writers can comply with the Plain Writing Act of 2010.

For Spivey, plain language comes down to one simple question.

“A student in [a plain writing] class gave me a tip: Every time I send a letter, I ask myself, would I want to receive it?” Spivey said. “That is it! When you send out something, would you be happy to receive it? Would you know what you are supposed to do with it? Would you sit there and ask yourself, ‘why did I get this?’ What am I supposed to do with this? This is the golden rule of plain language.”

You can watch the entirety of the webinar in the video below, or jump to specific parts from the table of contents.

Recap Video Table of Contents

  1. Definition and governance
  2. Benefits
  3. Techniques and focus
  4. Who’s your audience?
  5. What kind of page is it?
  6. Headers, lists and tables
  7. Keep things short
  8. Pronouns
  9. Write directly

Full Video