Plain language examples

Plain language examples, word lists, and usage. 

Replace passive voice with active

  • The game was won by Denise → Denise won the game
  • It was reviewed by the team → The team reviewed it
  • If concerns can’t be resolved by your actions → If you can’t resolve concerns
  • As required under Section B, Part 5, you must → Section B, Part 5 requires you to
  • Funding toward the purchase of your benefits is provided in the form of flex credits → Use flex credits to buy benefits

Activate gerunds

Gerunds are verbs that end in -ing.

  • Assessors help with evaluating and setting up workstations → Assessors help evaluate and set up workstations
  • This is the most commonly used method of assessing → This is the most common way to assess
  • When making decisions on the hiring and retention of → When you decide to hire or retain
  • It details procedures for handling → It explains how to handle

Use verbs

  • The board has oversight responsibility for → The board oversees
  • Submit your application → Apply
  • Make a modification → Change
  • Directors have the obligation to → Directors are obliged to

Cut unnecessary connectors

  • To be able to record → To record
  • Interviews are typically done face to face → Interviews are typically face to face
  • Surveys are used to assess → Surveys assess
  • The work of your colleagues → Your colleagues’ work
  • Complete all of the required information → Complete the required information
  • You have 60 days to make updates → You have 60 days to update

Avoid noun clusters

  • Don't write: The training program evaluation review team will submit its final report in September
  • Write: An evaluation of the training program will be available in September

Don’t state the obvious

  • Don't write: BC Stats also provides an opportunity to submit written comments at the end of the survey
  • Write: BC Stats invites comments at the end

Avoid editorializing

Watch for biased language.

  • Don't write: The Work Environment Survey (WES) is a valuable tool used in the BC Public Service to measure employee engagement. It also provides you with an opportunity to contribute confidential feedback about your work environment
  • Write: The Work Environment Survey (WES) measures employee engagement. It also lets you give confidential feedback about your work environment

Short sentences

Break two-subject sentences into single-subject sentences.

  • Don't write: BC Stats reviews the questionnaire each cycle to ensure questions are valid and reliable, and balances making improvements with maintaining year over year comparability
  • Write: BC Stats reviews the questionnaire each cycle to make sure questions are valid and reliable. BC Stats balances improvements with year-to-year comparability

Use the imperative

  • You should verify that coverage is effective → Verify that coverage is effective

Avoid redundancy

  • Various options → Options
  • Are different depending on → Depend on
  • And also → And
  • Skills and abilities → Skills
  • Planning for the future → Planning

Choose the simplest words and phrases

  • Accommodation → Housing
  • Administer → Do
  • Advance planning → Planning
  • After this is accomplished → Then
  • Assistance, support → Help
  • At an early date → Soon
  • Communicate with staff → Let staff know
  • Gives you the opportunity to → Lets you
  • In accordance with → According to, in line with
  • In addition to → Plus, and
  • In the absence of → Without
  • In order to → To
  • In the event of → If
  • Individual → Person
  • Implement → Use
  • Is able to → Can
  • Method → Way
  • Obtain → Get
  • Prior to → Before
  • Provides you with the opportunity to → Lets you
  • Request → Ask
  • Require assistance → Get help
  • Result in → Cause, make, lead to
  • The amount of time that → How long
  • To be used in → For
  • Within your ability → If you can