re: B.3.1 - Simple and straightforward language

Perhaps something along this line might be appropriate:

"Use language that is as simple as possible and appropriate for the content 
of your site. [Priority 1] Avoid idiomatic language, technical jargon, and 
other unfamiliar vocabulary and expressions when common words or 
expressions would convey the same meaning. For some specialized content, 
the language might necessarily remain relatively complex or challenging 
(e.g., Web-based tests of advanced verbal reasoning skills)."

If I could only say this more ... simply. <smile>

If necessary, the last sentence regarding "specialized content" could 
appear in the techniques document.

I don't think that it is necessary in the main document to note the 
difficulty of defining the term "simple." This could be explained in the 
techniques document. 

The techniques document could explain that the principle of simplicity 
relates to comprehensibility at various levels (vocabulary, syntax, 
discourse, etc.) and could provide additional specifics.  

The "Testing" (validation) section might refer to tools such as UNIX 
Writer's Workbench, which provides several readability measures.

Other Possible Content for the Techniques Document On This Topic
[Note. An earlier version of this was previously posted.]

Follow these writing suggestions: 
 Strive for clear and accurate headings and link descriptions. Scrutinize 
every heading, outline, and menu to see if the crucial words mean exactly 
what is intended, and if there are more common words that would convey the 
same meaning. 
 State the topic of the sentence or paragraph at the beginning of the 
sentence or paragraph. 
 Limit each paragraph to one main idea. 
 Avoid idiomatic language, technical jargon, and other unfamiliar 
vocabulary and expressions. 
 Avoid specialized meanings of familiar vocabulary, unless explanations 
are provided. 
 Avoid the passive voice. 
 Avoid complex sentence structures. 
 Make link phrases terse and meaningful when read out of context. 

Because people tend to scan rather than read Web pages, the quality of 
headings is particularly important. Good headings will at least get people 
to a section that has the information they need. From there they can go to 
a dictionary or even print out a section and ask for help.

Sun Microsystems' "Writing for the Web" 
( provide guidelines for improving 
usability of Web pages.

Spell checkers, grammar checkers, and automated language analysis tools may 
assist in identifying excessively complex or difficult content within a 

Under certain circumstances, limited comprehensibility may be required. For 
example, in puzzles, riddles, humor, poetry, assessments, and other special 
content, some obscurity may be necessary to achieve the intended effect. 
I (Eric Hansen) also like Charles McCathieNevile's comment:

"Examples where the use of the simplest words may not be appropriate
include poetry, and technical literature which uses specialised terms.
the practise of providing a gloss (short explanation of meaning), or ruby
for unfamiliar words is only about one two thousand years older than the
web, and is still a valuable technique. the HTML element RUBY, or a link
to a glossary, are two ways of achieveing this."
Original Text
From: "Wendy A Chisholm" <>, on 2/18/99 6:26 PM:
B.3.1 currently says:
Use the simplest and most straightforward language that is possible for the
content of your site. [Priority 2] 

After much discussion, the consensus seems to be that this is a P1 item
that needs an explanation.  However, I am having trouble providing an
explanation that doesn't sound like an author can write this one off.
help!  here's what I have so far:

Use language that is as simple as possible and appropriate for the content
of your site. [Priority 1]  While it is difficult to define "simple" in a
way that makes this checkpoint easily demonstrable, ....
Eric G. Hansen, Ph.D.
Development Scientist
Educational Testing Service
ETS 12-R
Rosedale Road
Princeton, NJ 08541
(W) 609-734-5615
(Fax) 609-734-1090

Received on Friday, 19 February 1999 19:08:50 UTC