Plain Language

Washington state government is one of the nation's leaders in plain language writing and design. The governor updated the state's plain language standards in November 2023. The standards focus on writing principles, design principles, and accessibility. 

Among other things, Executive Order 23-02 requires all state agencies to create and adopt a plain language policy.

Why plain language?

Washington state government provides Washingtonians with crucial information they need to make decisions about their lives, businesses and communities. It’s the responsibility of state employees – not individual Washingtonians – to ensure public information is accessible and easy to understand.

Using plain language minimizes confusion and errors on public-facing documents. Plain language:

  • Makes information easier to provide in multiple languages.
  • Increases information equity.
  • Clears up confusing information.
  • Serves your audience better.
  • Improves accessibility for people who use screen readers or other accessibility tools.

What is plain language?

Plain language is made up of writing and design principles that create more accessible, and user-friendly products (documents, website content, etc.) that your audience should understand the first time they read the information.

Plain language principles include:

  • Create short sentences.
  • Use common words.
  • Avoid jargon.
  • Use personal pronouns.
  • Use active voice so the reader knows who does what.
  • Use verb-driven headings to convey order and make sure they’re tagged for accessibility reasons.
  • Create negative (white) space.
  • Label images and graphs with alternative text.
  • Design clear pages.

Check out the plain language guidelines and learn more about plain language on the resources page.