Part of: Clear language
Last updated: 14 July, 2020
Following this helps people with:
time pressures: simply written content is easier to scan and absorb
stress: when anxious it's harder to comprehend things
multi-tasking: you need simple information when you're distracted
cognitive impairments: simple language takes less cognitive load
Make specialist content comprehensible by non-experts. Simple words help everyone.
Assuming who your audience is, and that they'll understand the technical terms you use, are common misconceptions.
When you present a concept explain its parts and processes. If you need to include a technical term consider explaining it. Make sure the surrounding language is in plain language.
link to an existing definition, this could be an external site
add a explanatory definition after using the term
"It is a Palladian style stone building, and contains a number of splendid paintings and much fine wood-carving." – original sentence
"It is a stone building in the Palladian style. It contains a number of splendid paintings and much fine wood-carving." – with link to a definition
"It is a Palladian style stone building and contains a number of splendid paintings and much fine wood-carving. Palladian style architecture features include columns, symmetry and decorative arches." – with explanatory definition
Higher literacy level users scan web pages too, and have a particular need for content in plain English.
People with the highest literacy levels and greatest expertise tend to have to read the most. They do not have time to for lengthy, complex content. And this behaviour is nothing recent. UK World War 2 Prime Minister Winston Churchill called for his reports, telegrams and other communication materials to be written succinctly.
'Writing Digital Copy for Domain Experts', H. Loranger and K. Moran, NNg, 2017
'Writing Digital Copy for Specialists vs. General Audiences', K. Moran, NNg, undated
'Plain Language For Everyone, Even Experts' , H. Loranger, NNg, undated
'How Little Do Users Read'? J. Nielson, NNg, 2008
The Effects of Jargon on Processing Fluency, Self-Perceptions, and Scientific Engagement, H. C. Shulman, G. N. Dixon, O. M. Bullock, 2020
'TechWhirl Fast 5: Understanding Plain Language and Simplified Technical English', C. Giordano, TechWhirl, 2017
'Advantages and disadvantages with Simplified Technical English', MSc thesis paper, K. Disborg, 2007
'The Facets of the General Public as Audience' C. Stephens and M. Stufflebeam, 2017
‘Guidelines for authoring comprehensible web pages and evaluating their success’, Spyridakis, J. H., Technical Communication, 2000, pages 359 to 82
'Identifying information seeking behaviours of low and high literacy users: combined cognitive task analysis', N. Kodagoda, B. L. W. Wong, N., Kahan, 2009
'Sentence length: why 25 words is our limit', Inside GOV.UK, UK Government blog, 2014
'What we know about expertise in professional communication', Schriver, K., chapter in 'Past, present, and future contributions of cognitive writing research to cognitive psychology', editor Berninger, V. W., 2012