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13.01 Introduction

The purpose of a plain-language approach in written communication is to convey information easily and unambiguously. It should not be confused with an oversimplified, condescending style. Rather, by choosing straightforward vocabulary and sentence structures and by organizing and presenting your material clearly and logically, you can save the reader time and effort and ensure that your message will be clearly understood.

The Government of Canada calls for plain language to be used in its communications with the public:

The obligation to inform the public includes the obligation to communicate effectively. Information about government policies, programs and services should be clear, objective and simple, and presented in a manner that is readily understandable. Messages should convey information relevant to public needs, use plain language and be expressed in a clear and consistent style.1

The need to provide relevant information in a clear and simple way also applies to communications within and between departments. Many types of documents are written by public servants for other public servants: memorandums, information on employee benefits, health and safety manuals, work plans, departmental policies, performance appraisals and so on. Use of plain language will help ensure that your message comes across clearly and that readers take appropriate action.

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  • Back to the note1 Treasury Board, "Government Communications Policy," Treasury Board Publications on CD-ROM, p. 17.