Plain Language Guide
These guidelines help you write clear, easy to understand content for every audience.
Who is this guide for?
Anyone who writes for the B.C. government, no matter what they write, from engineering reports to emails, news releases to websites.
Why Plain Language?
Plain language helps people find what they need and understand what they find. It saves time and money, and makes documents and websites easier to find, read, understand, and act on.
Plain Language Guidelines
Follow the guidelines below to write plain language content for all your audiences.
Know Your Audience
Learn who your audience is and what they need, and write to them.
Be Clear & Concise
- Cut unnecessary words
- Use short, everyday words
- Avoid jargon
- Use the active voice
- Write in short sentences
- Avoid repeating the page topic too often
Use the Present Tense
Present tense sentences are short and engaging.
- Find a family doctor, medical clinic or hospital
Use Action Verbs
Action verbs give clear direction.
- Find a hospital near you
- Plan your route
Explain Difficult Words
If you need to use complex words or terms, explain them or provide examples.
- Psychosocial support (an approach to victims of disaster, catastrophe or violence that fosters strength) is crucial
Contractions give web writing a personal tone.
- We'll call back within one hour
- We've opened two new locations
Use Neutral Pronouns
Use "you," “they,” “them” or “their” unless you're addressing a specific gender.
- You can order copies
- They can register online
- Applicants can see their results
Keep Paragraphs to One Topic
Simple paragraphs help readers understand the topic.
Use the same word to describe the same thing on related pages.
Avoid being vague.
- This will teach you → This course will teach you
- Use descriptive headings to organize content
- Use lists and examples to break up long content
- Use tables only for data