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Arguments in Favor of Plain Language

There have been several traditional arguments against plain language — plain language is dumbing down, plain language can’t be used with technical subjects, plain language oversimplifies, plain language is not precise. By now, however, the arguments against plain language have been refuted.

This page includes some of the key articles that support using plain language.

  • The American public deserves plain language communication from its government, and it’s the law.

  • A landmark article from 1995 supporting plain language is Joe Kimble’s Answering the Critics of Plain Language (PDF), from The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing.

  • Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please is Kimble’s compilation of bottom-line benefits of plain language, published in The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing.

  • In his 2000 article The Great Myth That Plain Language is Not Precise, Joe Kimble addresses the criticism that using plain language prevents you from being precise.

  • In Signs of Intelligible Life, written in 2000, Lily Whiteman shows us that many major institutions in this country favor plain language as a communication style.

  • In her second article on this subject, also from 2000, Wanted: Articulate Scientists, Lily Whiteman describes how more and more scientists are learning how to reach wider audiences. The article outlines the benefits you will get if you use a plain style.

  • Rose Grotsky reported on a recent study of the benefits of plain language and its effect on organizational performance in a financial-services company. The article appeared in Clarity, a periodical devoted to plain legal language.

  • John Klotsche, an attorney who was a political appointee in IRS during the Bush administration, is a strong advocate for plain language, especially in tax matters. Read his blog, Plain Tax Talk.

  • Gwynne Kostin, a federal employee and blogger, weighs in on the need for plain language to advance the goal of transparency.

  • Cheryl Stephens, a leading spokesperson for plain language in Canada, wrote this essay about the business benefits of plain language.

  • Bob Brewin, wrote a post for the Government Executive lamenting the lack of plain language in the Department of Defense.