What is ISO?

ISO is the International Organization for Standardization. It is a worldwide federation that develops international standards with input from standards bodies worldwide.

ISO is best known for technology, safety and management standards. However, it has turned its focus towards plain language. With the overall objective to:

"help authors develop documents that communicate effectively with their intended readers".

The Plain Language Standard provides guidance on how to achieve this.

Creating a Plain Language Standard is an important step for ISO. It will raise awareness of the importance of accessibility in written documents. This should motivate businesses to optimise their content for plain language.

ISO guidance on readability

The standards document highlights four key areas of plain language.

Principle 1: Relevance

The document should be relevant to the needs of the readers. This means that the information should be what the readers are looking for.

The ISO guidance on keeping the reader in mind includes:

  • Considering cultural backgrounds
  • Considering subject-matter knowledge
  • Considering your audiences reading skills

This guidance also highlights the need to write to the correct reading level of your audience.

Principle 2: Easy to navigate

It should be easy for readers to find the information they need within the content.

This means the document should be: 
  • Well organised and easy to navigate
  • Present content in a way that is easy to understand
  • Use clear headings and subheadings

Guidance on this includes ensuring your writing has a structure that’s easy to follow.

Principle 3: Easy to Understand

Use clear and concise language that is easy for the readers to understand.

This means:

  • Avoiding jargon and technical terms
  • Using simple language
  • Using language appropriate for the target audience

To help you with this, use short sentences where possible and ensure you connect your paragraphs.

Principle 4: Usability

The content should be easy for readers to use.

This means that it should be:

  • Be well designed and easy to interact with 
  • Provide clear instructions
  • Use visuals to help illustrate the information 

Ensuring usability means regularly reviewing and updating content. This ensures your content still fits the readers’ needs.

Language Neutral

The standard is language neutral. The team of experts who developed the standard come from 25 countries and speak 19 languages between them. They worked hard to ensure the standard works in their language. As a result ISO believe that the standard can be used in most languages.

The standard can be applied in all cultures and all sectors.

For more information and the full ISO checklist, view their standards in full.

This is an exciting development for readability and plain language and one we welcome here at Readable.

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.