Why Plain Language?

You've probably heard of plain language. It's a movement and a style of writing that puts information in simple language the public can use.

  fa-leanpub  Where can I find plain language?

You can find plain language in my favorite legal resources, the NOLO guides. The Plain Writing Act of 2010 is changing U.S. government prose for the better. Learn about why plain language matters, and more from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

It helps you reach your patients

Just 53 percent of U.S. adults understand health materials written at a high school level. But the average level of health materials written for patients is Grade 10. Twenty-two (22) percent of U.S. adults have health literacy below Grade 7, and 14 percent read below a Grade 3 level.

It works for all reading levels

Readers at lower grade levels need plain language to understand documents. Readers at high grade levels prefer it because it’s easier to read. Davis et al (1996), found that “parents with high reading ability … preferred a simple [vaccination pamphlet] that is easier to understand and can be read in one-fourth the time.”

Plain language removes barriers to care

Medical terms place barriers between providers and patients. One study found that only 15 percent of patients in a urology clinic understood the word “incontinence.” Asking in plain language might reveal more patients with the problem.

Helping you help your patients

When you write for peers, technical terms signal “I speak your language. We’re a select group.” You worked hard to get there, and few things are headier than trading ideas with peers. But if you use a medical term, be sure it’s a “need to know” – something patients must know in order to act. If not, use a familiar word or phrase.

I’ve been writing in plain language for patients since 2002. Get in touch to learn more.