Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Nursing Best Practice Guidelines

What is plain language?


Q: What is plain language?
A: Throughout the literature, the terms ‘plain language’ and ‘clear language’ are often interchanged. It is the basic foundation of clear communication. Plain language is a way of writing information so that it is easy for most people to read, understand and use. Clients with low health literacy often rely heavily on verbal communication (Sudore & Schillinger, 2009). It is important for clinicians to avoid jargon and use plain or “living room language” (Sudore & Schillinger, 2009). Successful communication includes attempting to match the client’s vocabulary (for example using the words heart attack and not myocardial infarction), prioritizing key messages, and limiting messages to three key points.