The two sound the same, don’t they? But they’re not!

Plain English is a simplified style, free of jargon that suits a year 7 readability level. People with reasonable literacy skills would understand a message written in Plain English.

Easy English is further simplified and includes images that help understand concepts. It is used for people with learning disabilities or those who have trouble reading. This affects a little less than half of Australian adults.

Whether you choose to use Plain English or Easy English for your translation will depend on who is going to read it. Also consider why they might be reading it, what it is they need to know and what you want them to do once they’ve read it.

For Plain English you need a logical structure, basic language and grammar, fewer words / sentences / paragraphs, conversational language and an easy to follow format.

For Easy English you need these things plus a simple font or typeface, layout and design, and images that are relevant to the message and enhance understanding of it. Messages that contain all of these can’t fail to be understood by anyone!

Here is a cool table that we came up with to help you work out which style to use.

Plain English
Easy English

Audience

Anybody, specially people with low literacy levels or limited English skills.

People with learning/cognitive disabilities, low education or very limited English skills.

Document structure

Clear headings.Clear call to action.

Clear headings.Clear call to action.Bullet points instead of lengthy paragraphs.Images to the left, text to the right.

Graphic design

Font size 12 minimum. 

Font size 14 minimum.Images that support the text.

Language

Average sentence length is 18-20 words.​

Average sentence length is 8-10 words.

When to use Plain English vs Easy English? 

Choosing between Plain English and Easy English depends on the audience you are targeting and their reading abilities. 

Use Plain English when you want to communicate with people who have reasonable literacy skills and no cognitive impairments. This style is suitable for most audiences, including the public, professionals, and government agencies. Plain English is particularly useful when communicating complex or technical information to a non-specialist audience. 

Use Easy English when you want to communicate with people who have learning disabilities or difficulty reading, such as people with intellectual disabilities, cognitive impairments, or low literacy skills. Easy English uses images and a simpler writing style to help these readers understand complex information. 

When deciding between Plain English and Easy English, consider the needs of your audience and the purpose of your communication. If your audience has a range of abilities, you might consider providing information in both styles, using Plain English for the main message and Easy English for more detailed or complex information. 

Here are some tips for writing in Plain English: 

  1. Use simple, everyday words instead of jargon or technical language. 
  2. Use short sentences that are easy to read and understands.
  3.  using complicated sentence structures or unnecessary words. 
  4. Use active voice instead of passive voice to make the writing more direct and easier to follow. 
  5. Break up the text into short paragraphs with clear headings. 
  6. Use examples or analogies to clarify complex concepts. 
  7. Consider the tone and style of your writing to make it conversational and engaging. 

Here are some tips for writing in Easy English: 

  1. Use very simple, everyday words that are easy to understand. 
  2. Keep sentences short and use basic grammar and sentence structures. 
  3. Use images or pictures to illustrate the text and make it more accessible. 
  4. Use clear headings and subheadings to break up the text and make it easier to navigate. 
  5. Repeat important information to reinforce the message. 
  6. Avoid using metaphors, idioms, or figures of speech that may be confusing. 
  7. Consider the font, size, and spacing of the text to make it easier to read. 

How to Know the Difference Between the Two? 

To know the difference between Plain English and Easy English, you need to understand the target audience and their reading abilities. 

Plain English is suitable for people with reasonable literacy skills, while Easy English is designed for people with learning disabilities, cognitive impairments, or low literacy skills. 

Plain English uses simple, everyday language that is free of jargon and technical terms, with short sentences and clear structure. It may contain some complex information, but the writer presents it in a clear and straightforward manner that is easy to follow. 

Easy English, on the other hand, uses very simple language, short sentences, and basic grammar and sentence structures. It includes images or pictures to help readers understand the text, and often repeats important information to reinforce the message. Easy English is designed to be accessible to people with cognitive disabilities or low literacy skills, so it must be very simple and easy to understand. 

When deciding which style to use, consider your audience’s needs and reading abilities. If you are unsure which style to use, it is better to err on the side of caution and use Easy English, as it will be accessible to a wider range of readers. 

plain-english-or-easy-english

Conclusion  

In conclusion, choosing the right style of writing, whether it is Plain English or Easy English, is crucial to ensure effective communication and understanding of information. Plain English is suitable for people with reasonable literacy skills, while Easy English is designed for people with cognitive disabilities or low literacy skills. It is important to understand the target audience and their reading abilities in order to choose the appropriate style of writing. By following the tips for writing in Plain English or Easy English, you can create clear, concise, and accessible content that effectively communicates your message to your intended audience. 

If you are keen to keep learning about accessible language, here are more articles about Plain English and translation, resource evaluation and community consultations.

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