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RE: Proposed 4.1 wording for discussion

From: Gregg Vanderheiden <gv@trace.wisc.edu>
Date: Thu, 29 Aug 2002 08:13:50 -0400
To: "'Avi Arditti (by way of Wendy A Chisholm <wendy@w3.org>)'" <aardit@voanews.com>, w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Message-id: <000001c24f55$89f58a60$b6356880@GV6101>

Looks quite interesting
Some concern on use of term "Plain language"

Level 1 is not objective or testable.



Gregg Vanderheiden Ph.D.
Ind Engr - Biomed - Trace, Univ of Wis


-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org] On
Behalf Of Avi Arditti (by way of Wendy A Chisholm <wendy@w3.org>)
Sent: Wednesday, August 21, 2002 10:21 AM
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Subject: Re: Proposed 4.1 wording for discussion

Greetings to all,

I would like to propose some ideas for checkpoint 4.1 in an effort to
revive and narrow the discussion. What I have written incorporates ideas
that Bengt, Lisa (by phone) and I discussed at the Linz f2f. It also
incorporates some wording from the current draft of 2.0. And it attempts
to deal with concerns raised during telecons.

I await comments and suggestions. As we say in American slang, bring it
on! (But please be judicious with the trash talk.)

Avi Arditti
Senior News Editor - Web Editor
Voice of America, Special English Branch
Washington, DC 20237 USA
(202) 619-0927 | (202) 619-2543 fax
aardit@voa.gov | www.voaspecialenglish.com | www.plainlanguage.gov

Guideline 4 - Understandable.
Make content and controls as easy to understand as possible.

Search on the Web for the phrase "plain language." There is plenty of
evidence of a global movement for clarity.  The main targets include
consumer, legal, health and government documents. The problem is not
with complexity, but with needless complexity. Pressure to improve the
information that people are expected to understand has led to laws and
campaigns for plain language. 

This style of writing puts no limits on the creative mind. Rather, it
puts emphasis on audience. Such content considers the various ways that
people learn. It recognizes the variety of backgrounds and experiences
that people will bring to a site. It uses language, illustrations, and
concepts that they are likely to know. Plain language highlights the
differences and similarities between concepts. It provides explanations
for unusual terms, all in an effort to increase comprehension, without

The use of plain language is a principled effort to make information
easier to understand and easier to translate - in other words, more
accessible. Technical standards cannot define plain language in the same
way as HTML or other Web languages. However, below are some guidelines
and elements typically associated with plain language. These items can
serve as a checklist to add a measure of testablity to this checkpoint. 

Checkpoint 4.1 Use plain language. 

Success criteria

You will have successfully met Checkpoint 4.1 at the Minimum Level if:

    * Those responsible for content that is not yet published emphasize
clarity in key portions through the use of at least some elements listed

You will have successfully met Checkpoint 4.1 at Level 2 if:

    * Those responsible review the remaining portions, and publish a
statement of belief that the content is written with an appropriate
level of clarity.  

You will have successfully met Checkpoint 4.1 at Level 3 if:

    * All content reflects the use of elements below. 
    * A statement appears that says all content reflects efforts to use
plain language as defined in this checkpoint. 

The following are additional ideas:

    * Adopt or develop a set of guidelines for plain language. 
    * Use a controlled language. [Controlled languages are designed for
ease of parsing and translation. They use a limited core vocabulary,
typically limit each word to a single meaning, and avoid complex
    * Use a plain or controlled language checker. 
    * Test content with a readability formula. 
    * Test the readability of content with diverse groups of users. 

Elements typically associated with plain language (some will aid
understanding for everyone, others may benefit mainly speakers of other

    * Provide summaries or simpler forms, or both, for key pages or
    * Provide an outline or a summary for your document. 
    * Use syntax that is least likely to confuse (examples of desirable
forms are active voice and subject-verb-object sentences in English.) 
    * Break up long paragraphs into shorter ones, with one idea per
    * Use bulleted lists in place of dense paragraphs of items separated
by commas or semicolons. 
    * Avoid long, complex sentences with multiple ideas. 
    * Limit sentences to one idea. 
    * Provide accurate, unique page titles. 
    * Avoid unnecessarily formal or stilted language 
    * Avoid strings of more than two or three nouns. 
    * Avoid ambiguous or confusing pronouns. 
    * Ensure that headings and link text are unique and make sense when
read out of context. 
    * Define jargon or specialized terminology that some users may not
    * Avoid multiple names for the same object or idea. 
    * Provide informative section headings (for example, "Part 2: Rules
and Regulations," rather than simply "Part 2.") 
    * Use question-and-answer formats. 
    * Explain uncommon figurative, metaphorical, or idiomatic uses of
    * Think about your use of culturally specific terms and other
references that may not translate easily into other languages and
    * Use language that your intended audience ought to be familiar
    * When introducing new concepts or terms, define or annotate them in
language the audience should be familiar with, or link to definitions or
explanations that might be easier to understand. 
    * Emphasize simple forms of verbs wherever doing so would aid
understanding and ease translation. 
    * Given a choice of words, choose the more common. 
Received on Thursday, 29 August 2002 08:16:22 UTC

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