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What is plain language in the courts?

December 2, 2020

A recent edition of the Tiny Chats series examined the topic of clear court communications. A part of such communications is the use of plain language. Plain language can be defined in many ways, but at its core is a person's ability to instantly understand a message read or heard.

  • Federally, the Plain Writing Act of 2010 defines plain language as: "[w]riting that is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience."
  • The Self-Represented Litigants Network (SRLN) stresses that language perceived as plain to one set of readers may not be plain to others. Material is in plain language if audiences can find what they need, understand what they find the first time they read or hear it, and use what they find to meet their needs.

Learning how to write in plain language, especially where the courts use specialized language, is a skill of its own. Among the resources available to help are:

How are you integrating plain language into your courts? Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest and share your experiences on how your court is adjusting to Plain Language!

For more information, contact Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164.