Open Government at the National Archives

Plain Writing Checklist

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Use this checklist to see if your document meets plain language standards.

Is the tone appropriate for the audience? Did you…



Write for the reader (average reader or subject matter expert)?



Are ideas organized logically? Did you…



Start with the main point?



Organize to serve the reader’s needs?



Use headings and subheadings consistently?



Include correct, unbroken links if document is a web communication, and didn’t use “click here”?



Does the document use the right words? Did you…



Use active voice?



Use the simplest tense possible (present tense is best)?



Use “must” to express requirements and avoid the use of “shall”?



Use everyday words (consider the audience)?



Use pronouns (“we” and “you”) to speak to the reader?



Omit unnecessary words?



Use short sentences?



Place words carefully?



Are the spelling and grammar correct? Did you…



Spell and capitalize words correctly?



Make subjects and verbs agree?



Use correct punctuation?



Is the document formatted for readability? Did you…



Use informative headings and subheadings if the document is lengthy?



Use white space for easy scanning?



Use lists and tables to simplify complex material?



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