Introduction

The NIH distributes health and research information to a wide range of readers, including the general public, Congress, medical practitioners and researchers, and the business and governmental communities. To communicate NIH messages clearly, you should use plain language for all documents, presentations, and electronic messages.

Plain language is characterized by:

  • Common, everyday words except for necessary technical terms
  • Personal pronouns (“we” and “you”)
  • Active voice
  • Logical organization
  • An easy-to-read format, including bullets, tables and free use of whitespace.

We have developed the following Computer-Based Training (CBT) modules to introduce you to the basics of plain language. Modules one through seven contain tales of medical history, some exercises, and a summary. The eighth module contains optional exercises for additional practice. We have also provided a list of Web sites that you can use as you continue to expand your writing skills. We hope this training will help you learn to organize your ideas, use a clear writing style, and become a more effective communicator.

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