Government content is notorious for being long and complicated. It does not have to be. Simple writing supports equal outcomes.
Keep sentences short and simple.
Why this is important
Short sentences and paragraphs are easier to read. Assume your audience includes:
- People who use screen readers. Short sentences help screen readers provide natural inflections.
- People who read at elementary levels. It’s harder to find and understand information in long sentences and paragraphs.
- People with limited English fluency, but who do not trust translated content. These readers may translate as they read. Complex sentences make this difficult.
When there is less to read, it’s easier for people to complete their task.
How to do this in your writing
- Think about every word you use. Remove words that do not add value.
- For example: do not use the word please.
- The Hemingway Editor identifies long sentences that are hard to read and words that do not add value.
- One way to fix long sentences is to break them into two sentences.
- Have one thought per sentence.
- Do not duplicate content. This actually makes it harder for people to find information instead of easier.
- Saying the same thing multiple ways is one form of duplicate content.
- Be direct and confident.
- People expect the government to be a source of truth. Stating the facts confidently reassures them they’re getting accurate information
Here’s an example of how to make content more concise:
If an individual has a payment to submit to the Treasurer’s Office of Department of Weights and Measures that accompanies their license renewal, this payment must be submitted through the online portal at the same time of the submission of their application to the Department.
You must pay your license fee when you renew your license. Use the Department of Weights and Measures online portal to renew and pay.
Plainlanguage.gov has more tips for writing concise content. You can also see examples of how to improve government writing.