Write Your Manual Using Plain Language
Plain language is more clear, easier to understand, and reduces comprehension errors
You may find that writing your manual content, or any written communication with your employees in plain language improves clarity and the reader’s comprehension. This, in turn, helps mitigate errors as the policy or procedure is clearly detailed, and to whom it applies, without room for subjective interpretation.
When you write documents in the style of plain language, it’s helpful to your staff, department, and company in three primary ways. It helps your users:
There are several simple techniques to make your writing clear and effective.
For example, let’s look at flight attendant duty time, 14 CFR 121.467. Which is easier to comprehend, the regulation in its raw form, or in a table?
(1) Except as provided in paragraphs (b)(4), (b)(5), and (b)(6) of this section, no certificate holder conducting domestic, flag, or supplemental operations may assign a flight attendant to a scheduled duty period of more than 14 hours.
(2) Except as provided in paragraph (b)(3) of this section, a flight attendant scheduled to a duty period of 14 hours or less as provided under paragraph (b)(1) of this section must be given a scheduled rest period of at least 9 consecutive hours. This rest period must occur between the completion of the scheduled duty period and the commencement of the subsequent duty period.
(3) The rest period required under paragraph (b)(2) of this section may be scheduled or reduced to 8 consecutive hours if the flight attendant is provided a subsequent rest period of at least 10 consecutive hours; this subsequent rest period must be scheduled to begin no later than 24 hours after the beginning of the reduced rest period and must occur between the completion of the scheduled duty period and the commencement of the subsequent duty period.
(4) A certificate holder conducting domestic, flag, or supplemental operations may assign a flight attendant to a scheduled duty period of more than 14 hours, but no more than 16 hours, if the certificate holder has assigned to the flight or flights in that duty period at least one flight attendant in addition to the minimum flight attendant complement required for the flight or flights in that duty period under the certificate holder’s operations specifications.
Here is the above regulation, displayed in a table using plain language principles
4. It’s easy for readers to get lost in run-on sentences. Vertical lists [bullets and numbering] are quicker and easier for readers to follow and are an ideal way to explain a series of facts.
Along with your letter of application, submit a statement of conformance certifying that you have met the requirements of Subpart O of part 21 and that the article meets the TSO in effect on the date of your application; one copy of the data the TSO requires; and a description of your quality control system.
The same content presented as a list:
With your letter of application, send us the following:
(1) A statement of conformance certifying that you have met the requirements of Subpart O of Part 21 and that the article meets the TSO in effect on the date of your application;
(2) One copy of the data the TSO requires; and
(3) A description of your quality control system.
It is up to you to decide whether incoprporating plain language will benefit your operation. Below are numerous resources available to help you self-learn the principles of plain language and how it helps everyone involved.
Take the Plain Language Basic Course (This course is really good. It’s very informative and entertaining! A little of your time used to learn the principles of plain language can greatly improve your writing skills!)
The FAA Plain Language Tool Kit (PDF)
Is This Plain Language? — Articles by Bruce V. Corsino, Psy.D., about important topics and best practices in plain language.
FAA Plain Language Writing Standards
Plain Language Guidelines for the Federal Government
Plain Language: A Handbook for Writers in the U.S. Federal Government (PDF)
NIH Plain Language Initiative (NIH = National Institutes of Health)
Plain Language Resource Articles