We hear a number of common objections to readability (also known as plain language). Some people believe that good readability makes content too simplistic. Also that it lacks the precision and accuracy of more complex language. Others believe that it can make content seem unprofessional or the writer sound uneducated. Some writers believe it is not appropriate for certain types of documents, such as legal or technical.

However, there is a growing body of evidence showing that plain language is more effective than complex language. Studies have shown that documents are more likely to be read, and complied with if they are easier to understand. In addition, plain language can help to build trust and credibility with your reader.

Tips to apply to your writing

Be clear and concise

Plain language does not mean using simple words or avoiding complex concepts. It simply means using language that is clear and easy to understand.

There’s a time and a place for being verbose. Put your reader first and make the reading experience enjoyable for them. Otherwise, it looks like you’re putting your creative ego above their experience.

Use active voice

Active voice is more direct and engaging than passive voice.

Ensure you’re using the active voice for engaging, dynamic writing. Don’t know how to spot active voice vs passive? Check out our handy guide.

Avoid jargon and technical terms

If you must use jargon or technical terms, be sure to define them clearly.

Using jargon is often well-intentioned. After all, you want to look like you know what you’re talking about. But overuse of jargon can be off-putting - get to know the top phrases to avoid.

Use examples

Examples can help to make your writing more concrete and easier to understand.
Using examples can also improve your storytelling skills. Personal anecdotes can be a powerful rhetorical device.

Proofread your work carefully

Typos and grammatical errors can make your writing look unprofessional and hard to understand.

Some may see meticulous proofreading as pedantic, but we encourage and celebrate being thorough.

Overcoming objections to readability

Are you having a hard time convincing a decision maker that readability software is worthwhile? Here's how to overcome common objections against readability:

“Plain language is too simplistic.”

Plain language does not mean using simple words or avoiding complex concepts. It simply means using language that is clear and easy to understand.

For example, instead of saying: "The user must input the data into the system."

You could say: "Please enter the data into the system."

It’s simplified and polite, it addresses the reader directly and it’s fluff-free.

“Plain language is unprofessional.”

Plain language can be just as professional as complex language. In fact, plain language is easier to understand so it can make your writing look more professional.

For example, instead of saying: "The system will not function if the user does not input the data correctly."

You could say: "Please make sure you enter the data correctly so that the system works."

This is also an example of writing in the positive. Don’t use fear to persuade your reader. Keep an eye on your positivity with our tone slider.

“Plain language is not appropriate for legal or technical documents.”

Plain language can be used for any type of document, including legal and technical documents. In fact, plain language can actually make these types of documents easier to understand. A study in 2022 found that poor writing, not legal terms, is what makes contracts hard to understand.

You could argue, that good readability is crucial in both the legal and healthcare sector. It is vital for people to be able to understand their rights and be able to advocate for themselves.


Dave Child

Dave is the founder of Readable and has been building websites since the early 90s. He’s one of those fortunate people who gets to do what he loves for a living.