Documentation for the general public from government entities, as well as medical, financial, and legal service providers, is often difficult for consumers to understand and follow. Such poorly prepared documents diminish consumers’ abilities to make informed decisions about their health, rights, and finances. These documents create problems for both the users and producers of the documents. With the ease of accessing documents online, organizations face increasing pressure to create effective content appropriate for broad audiences.
Plain language offers an approach to language and design for producing easily accessible and readable public documents. Among other suggestions, plain-language advocates suggest reducing jargon, writing shorter sentences, and providing clear section headings. However, the plain-language movement faces two potential challenges to wider acceptance. First, many professional communicators may not be familiar with the range of guidelines, with relevant federal and national regulations, or with specific details of the approach. Second, the guidelines themselves are often open to interpretation and in some ways oversimplify complexities of communication with multiple audiences and across different media.