Author Archives: Sally McBeth

Links to plain-language organizations and even more resources

Based in the Washington D.C. area, this non-profit advocates for plain language and provides training and support. They award a “WonderMark” for poor communication and a “ClearMark” prize for effective communication.

Clarity is an international association of lawyers interested in plain legal language.

Clear Language and Design’s website has useful Tips & Tools, an archive of our newsletters, and descriptions of our services and clients.

Website for plain language advocates within the United States government.

The Plain Language Association International holds conferences every two years in countries all over the world.

IC Clear is developing an international postgraduate course in clear communication.

Usability, web design, and writing for the Web

Goldsmith, Penny et al. Reaching your Readers: A Fieldtesting Guide for Community Groups. Vancouver: Legal Services Society of B.C., 1993. Available free from

Nielson, Jakob and Marie Tahir. Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed. Indianapolis: New Riders Press, 2002.

Nielsen, Jakob. Designing Web Usability. Berkely, CA: New Riders Publishing, 2000.

Williams, Robin. The Non-designer’s Web Book: An Easy Guide to Creating, Designing, and Posting Your Own Web Site. Berkeley, California: Peachpit Press, 2000.

Redish, Janice. Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2007.

Subscribe to Jakob Nielsen’s newsletter on valuable, ongoing research into reading behaviour on the Internet.

The U.S government’s primary source of information on usability and user-centered design provides guidance and tools on how to make Web sites and other communication systems more useful.

W3C (The World Wide Web Consortium) is an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web and promotes Web accessibility.

Excellent resources on older adults and the Web.

Style and grammar guides

O’Conner, Patricia. Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English. New York: Grosset/Putnam, 1996.

Pinker, Stephen. The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. New York: Penguin, 2014.

Sabin, William et al. The Gregg Reference Manual, Sixth Canadian Edition. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 2002.

Strunk, William Jr. and E.B. White. The Elements of Style. New York: Longman, 2000.

Zinsser, William. On Writing Well. New York: HarperCollins, 2001.

Special audiences

Dept. of the Secretary of State of Canada. A Way with Words: Guidelines and Appropriate Terminology for the Portrayal of Persons with Disabilities. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1991.

Government of British Columbia. Words, Images, Disabilities: A Guide for Media professionals. Vancouver: BC Rehab, 1995.

Health Canada. Division of Aging and Seniors. Communicating with Seniors: Advice, Techniques and Tip. Ottawa: Minister of Public Works and Governement Services Canada, 1999. Order free copies from:

Ontario Women’s Directorate. Words that Count Women In. Toronto: Manager, Speeches and Information, 1993.

Making written information easier to understand for people with learning disabilities – guidance from the Department of Health in the United Kingdom for public sector organizations that produce information specifically for people with learning disabilities. (PDF download)

Readability measurement

DuBay, William. Smart Language: Readers, readability, and the grading of text. Costa Mesa, CA.: Impact Information, 2007.

DuBay, William. Unlocking Language: The classic readability studies. Costa Mesa, CA.: Impact Information, 2007.

Evetts, Julian and Michel Gautier, Literacy Task Assessment Guide. Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2005. Downloadable at:

Flesch, Rudolph. The Art of Readable Writing, 1949. Downloadable from:

An easy-to-use online readability calculator

Plain language guides

Cutts, Martin. Oxford Quick Reference Plain English Guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Cutts, Martin. Oxford Guide to Plain English, Third Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

European Union. How to write clearly, available in more than 20 languages.

Multiculturalism and Citizenship Canada. Plain Language Clear and Simple. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1991.

Stephens, Cheryl, ed. Plain Language in Plain English. Vancouver: Plain Language Wizardry, 2010

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: A Plain English Handbook. Washington, D.C., 1998.

Government of Canada: Plain Language, Clear and Simple. You can get a free PDF of this 1991 guide and its 1994 companion guide for trainers on the Clear Communication Wiki at Also available in French.


Hartwell Fiske, Robert. The Dictionary of Concise Writing: 10,000 Alternatives to Wordy Phrases. Oak Park, Illinois: Mario Street Press, 2002.

Cutts, Martin. Plain English Lexicon: A guide to whether your words will be understood. Second Edition, 2011. Download from the Plain Language Commission at,,646397,00.html

Plain English definitions for hundreds of phrases used in the public and voluntary sectors.

A multilingual database of legal terms, sponsored by the Law Foundation of British Columbia.

Languages other than English

Federation canadienne pour l’alpahabetisation en francais. Ecrire Simplemt. Vanier, Ontario: 1995.

Government of Canada. Pour un style clair et simple. File:PourunStyleClairetSimple.pdf

Government of Canada. Pour un style clair et simple – Guide du formateur, File:PSCS-GuideduFormateur Part1.pdfFile:PSCS-GuideduFormateur Part2.pdf

European Union. How to write clearly, available in more than 20 languages.

A multilingual database of legal terms, sponsored by the Law Foundation of British Columbia.