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King County Editorial Style Manual

abbreviations, capitalization, grammar, numbers, punctuation, spelling, word usage

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:

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.

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Other communications resources


For more information about plain language and clear writing, check out these Other plain-language resources or contact Jim Lindler. This guide was developed by Gary Larson, former Metro and King County editor and public information officer in the Transit Division, Wastewater Treatment Division, and Department of Transportation..

Plain-language writing guide