Plain Language Links: Tips, Tools and Tutorials


The links on this page introduce the concept of Plain Language - a strategy that has been greatly promoted as a means of delivering written health information to patients. These links will help you find rules for drafting plain language documents, tools to assist you with the writing process, and guides for assessing the readability of documents.

Contact our librarian-researcher for more information, by e-mail or by phone at (514) 798-5601.

See also the MUHC's links to plain language thesauri and readability tests

Writing in Plain Language

The following sites introduce the concept and identify the rules of plain language writing.

PlainTrain: Plain Language Online Training Program - Janet Dean and Cheryl Stephens

Tips and techniques for improving communication skills with the use of plain language. This program consists of 8 topic sections.

An Introduction to Plain Language by Cheryl Stephens - Plain Language Association International (PLAIN)

A guide on the steps to follow when creating plain-language text
A more detailed page:

Plain English at Work: A guide to help organisations develop plain English
documents - Australia's Department of Education, Training and Youth

Plain English at a Glance - Plain English Network, U.S.

The Right to Understand - Sandra Fisher-Martins on Ted.Com

Guides to Writing and Design

Ethics of Simplicity [Health Literacy How-To Tips] - Health literacy Consulting

Health Literacy Studies: Assessing and Developing Materials - Harvard School of Public Health

PRISM Readability Toolkit - Program for Readability in Science & Medicine (PRISM)

Plain Writing Tips for the Web - HowTo.Gov

Readability [free download]
National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE)

US Federal Plain Language Guidelines, December 2010

Planning a Plain Language Website –


Plain Language Thesauri

CLAD Online Thesaurus - Clear Language and Design- East End Literacy, Toronto, ON

Dictionary of Plain English - Duncan Kent & Associates, Vancouver, BC

The A-Z of Alternative Words - Plain English Campaign, Derbyshire, England

Plain English Lexicon: A Guide to Whether Your Words Will be Understood - Martin Cutts

Plain Language Thesaurus for Health Communications - CDC National Center for Health Marketing

Words to Watch Fact Sheet


Readability formulas and SAM (Suitability Assessment of Materials)

Readability formulas are not considered to be scientifically valid, since different formulas
can give different grade level scores. However, a readability score can indicate that a text will be too difficult for its intended audience


The CDC Clear Communication Index

The CDC Clear Communication Index (Index) is a  research-based tool to plan and assess public communication materials. The 4 questions and 20 items in the Index are drawn from the scientific literature in communication and related disciplines.

SMOG Readability Formula Description

The Readability Test Tool [uses several formulas]

Reading Effectiveness Tool - Clear Language and Design, East End Literacy

Return to Top