General Guidelines

Here are Washington's guidelines for writing to customers in plain language writing and design. As you will see, it's about more than just writing well. These resources were developed in 2005.

  1. Understand customer needs
  2. Include only relevant information
  3. Use words your customers use
  4. Use the "active voice"
  5. Use personal pronouns
  6. Keep sentences and paragraphs short
  7. Design clear pages

Are these guidelines or requirements?

Executive Order 23-02 requires you to follow these guidelines when writing for customers. Of course, it would be impossible to change all of your agency documents at once. But you are required to make meaningful progress toward that goal.

What about readability formulas?

Readability tools such as the Flesch-Kincaid test, the Fog Index, and others can help. However, they generally track the length of words and sentences. They do not reflect whether you've met your customers' needs or designed a page that is easy to read, which are equally important.

Click here to download a .pdf version of the Plain Talk Guidelines (last updated 2005).