Plain and inclusive language
Use plain English
Plain English is direct, clear, everyday language. We need to write simply, ensuring all users can find and understand information—regardless of ability, age, language, location or device. Users want content that is easy and quick to understand. Don’t assume users know technical terms or acronyms. The easier content is to understand the less queries and complaints you will receive!
When using technical language, aim for a reading age of 12 to 14. This is consistent with WCAG 2.1 best practice. Consider also using supplemental diagrams for complex information to increase the user's understanding. Visit literacy and access to learn more about Australian reading levels.
For a deeper dive on these topics, check out the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines success criteria on:
Inclusive language promotes respect, empathy, and equity. It recognises and values diversity, helping create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all, regardless of background, identity, or experience.
If you are unsure about wording, ask for clarification. Aim to use language that respects individuals and includes all.
Tips for writing inclusive and clear content
- Write with intention
- Use gender-neutral terminology
- Do not use harmful or problematic language
- Avoid idioms
- Avoid language that assumes all personal relationships are heterosexual
- Be concise
- Use short words and sentences
- Keep tone in an active voice, not passive
- Write the way you would speak
- Use contractions
- Minimise capital letters
- Avoid slang, clichés or metaphors
- Use 'you' when talking about your reader, and 'we' or ‘the department’ when talking about your agency
- Read your content out loud. If it sounds unnatural, go back and simplify it
The Australian Government Style Manual provides a comprehensive guide to inclusive language.
How to test readability
You should include readability testing in your content workflow process – from creation through to review and publishing. You can use free tools such as:
These tools will help you assess if your content is in plain English. They score its reading age level. Note you will need to convert US reading grades to the Australian-equivalent age. US grades 3 and 4 are equivalent to an Australian age 9.
Please note that any collection, storage, use and disclosure of information must comply with the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 and the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002. Personal and health information should not be inputted or disclosed to public platforms and sites.