King County plain-language writing guide
How to write clearly to meet the needs of your readers
Plain language (or plain English) is an approach to writing that concentrates on the needs of your readers. This clear writing approach is ideal for public sector employees who write to and for King County taxpayers, ratepayers and other clients and customers. It helps us write for people who read at all levels of time, interest, education and literacy. It also benefits readers with limited English proficiency or learning disabilities.
Plain-language principles can help you write clearly and concisely. Plain language matches the needs of your readers with your needs as a writer, leading to effective, efficient communication. It is effective because your readers can understand your message. It is efficient because your readers can understand your message the first time they read it. That reader focus--combined with logical organization, clear writing and inviting appearance--is key to creating usable, informative documents for King County.
The basics of clear, concise writing apply to all types of documents. Following plain-language principles will improve the readability of letters and memos, reports and newsletters, brochures and presentations, instruction mauals and legal documents, and most other county documents. The principles also apply directly to writing news releases and Web pages, and they will aid translating our English documents into other languages. This guide is recommended for county website managers and authors.
Check out the pages below to learn how to improve your writing skills by using plain-language techniques:
- Focusing on your reader and purpose
- Organizing your ideas
- Writing clear, effective paragraphs
- Writing clear, simple sentences
- Using appropriate words
- Creating an enticing design
- Testing for clarity
- Other plain-language resources : online and print resources provided by the Washington state and U.S. governments, other state and national governments, and other organizations. This website adapted from Plain Train: Plain Language Online Training and other resources.
- Excerpts from this writing guide that focus on how to write clearly to meet the needs of readers with limited English proficiency and people who translate English documents (DOC, 176KB).
- King County Web Page Specification (internal link, DOC, 188KB). They refer to plain language and require that Web file content use the clearest, simplest language possible.
- "Wash. state sees results from 'plain talk' initiative" --USA Today, Dec. 12, 2006
Also see the King County guide to concise writing:
To help make your King County documents easier to read and understand, use this Guide to Concise Writing. It provides concise alternatives to overstated, pompous words; wordy, bureaucratic phrases; and redundant phrases.
Back to King County Editorial Style Manual