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:
- www.plainlangauge.gov: a federal government website that helps officials in every branch and at every level understand how to write plainly and why it is important to do so.
- The 2019 National Association for Court Management (NACM) Plain Language Guide
Written inassists courts with guidelines, resources, and examples that follow the Plain Writing Act of 2010 requirements.
- A Tiny Chat Companion: Clear Court Communications includes additional information and resources on plain language beyond the previously mentioned Tiny Chat video.
- The CourTools Measure 1 Access and Fairness survey asks court participants questions to gauge whether the language they are presented with makes sense to them.
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.