Plain language checklist

Last updated: July 5, 2022

Plain language makes information easier to find, read and understand. When people understand what they read, they need fewer explanations and make fewer mistakes. It saves people and government time and money and improves the accessibility of your content.

Steps to take

  1. Is it obvious who and what the page is for? Use clear, descriptive page titles. Search results usually show the page title so it must describe the page content clearly
  2. Use lists instead of long sentences whenever possible
  3. Is it easy to scan and pick out the main points? Use clear, descriptive headings to identify sections of your content
  4. Write short sentences. Ideally no more than 15 to 20 words
  5. Keep paragraphs to one topic. Aim for no more than 5 sentences. Avoid repeating the page topic too often
  6. Use simple, common words
  7. Define acronyms before using them
  8. Cut down your word count. Remove words that do not add meaning
  9. Use inclusive language
  10. Avoid using ministry, organization or program names unless required
  11. Only include critical information. Limit policy information unless necessary
  12. Avoid complex terms. If you need to use them, define them or provide examples. If you’re using many complex terms, consider creating a glossary
  13. Use the active voice in the present tense
  14. Use a conversational tone. Use first and second person (we, us) rather than third person (he, she, it, they)
  15. Aim for a Grade 8 reading level or lower. Test the readability of your content using a tool such as the HemingwayApp online tool (external link) for non-sensitive information
  16. Have someone else review your content


Related Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

Quick links to the Web Accessibility Initiative: