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What is Plain Language? Why Should You Use Plain Language? Where Do You Start?
Why Should You Use Plain Language?

A Government-wide directive requires Federal agencies to use plain language by January 1, 2002, in all documents written for the public.

More importantly, communicating clearly is its own reward-it saves time and money, and it improves reader response to your message. Using plain language avoids creating barriers that set us apart from the people with whom we are communicating.

NIH's mission is complex and involves at least three broadly defined groups with varying interests.

External Groups Typical Interests
* General Public
* Citizens (including those with specialized literacy, cultural, and vision needs)
* Constituency groups
* Vendors
* Members of the press
* Job seekers and students

Seeking health information


Supporting or criticizing research priorities, budgets, and methods


Seeking business opportunities through contracts

* Researching a story or reading a press release
* Seeking information about career opportunities
* Medical & Scientific Community
* Medical practitioners
* Researchers
* Readers of scientific publications
* Students
* Advisory committee members

Seeking research protocols for their patients


Seeking funding opportunities or regulatory guidance


Seeking research data


Seeking fellowship opportunities and student loans for advanced studies

* Reading background briefings
* Governmental Community
* Members of Congress
* Investigators
* Staff of Federal and State agencies
* Seeking assistance for their constituents or stating a position
* Seeking background information
* Requesting information for appropriations hearings, briefings, and reports
Because part of the NIH mission is to reach all Americans with health information they can use, we must try to communicate in a way that helps people to easily understand our research results.

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Last updated: March 28, 2003