Little Plain Language Progress

Bethany K. Dumas dumasb at UTK.EDU
Sun May 9 02:07:04 UTC 1999

On Sat, 8 May 1999, Victoria Neufeldt wrote:
>I wonder what the criteria would be for language that was adequately
>"plain".  Is there a set of guidelines or maybe even requirements for what
>is called "plain English"?  Is syntax considered or only vocabulary?  And
>who would be the judge of the success or failure of a given simplified
>document?  Maybe this could be a whole new career for -- whom?  English or
>linguistics majors?

I think the rules and parameters differ by nature and function of
documents. Over the past 2-3 years, I have been involved with
readability issues for publshers of health newsletterrs (who seem
finally to have figured out that if consumers could read the newsletters,
it would be helpful!) and comprehensibility issues in jury instructions in
Tennessee. It is harder, I think to edit medical and legal documents to be
readable by "average adults" than other kinds of texts. Nonetheless,
rewriting can help enormously.


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