Plain Language Checklist
- Did you number all pages, sections, and numbered lists correctly?
- Did you format all bulleted lists consistently?
- Did you properly label all tables?
- Did you separate all sentences by one space (not two)?
- Did you use active voice—not passive voice—throughout the document?
- Did you use verbs in present tense whenever possible?
- Did you use gender-neutral language whenever possible?
- Did you use “must” rather than “shall” or “should” to indicate requirements?
- Did you place subjects and objects close to their verbs?
- Did you keep modifiers close to the words they are modifying?
- Did you place long conditions after the main clause, not before?
- Did you use parallel construction in your sentences?
- Did you organize the document in a way that’s easy to follow?
- Did you divide the narrative section of the document into short sections with clear, concise headings?
- Do your paragraphs average less than seven lines?
- Did you limit each paragraph to one topic?
- Did you keep sentences short (averaging 15-20 words per sentence)?
- Did you spell out all acronyms on first use?
- If there are enough to justify it, did you provide an acronym list?
- Did you use “you” (referring to the reader) and “we” (referring to the U.S. Department of Transportation or the mode or office)?
- Did you use simple, everyday language (no jargon, stilted, or wordy language) while avoiding slang?
- Did you define all pronouns in the context in which they are used, clearly referring to a specific noun?
- Did you avoid using “noun sandwiches” – long strings of nouns used as adjectives (e.g. “railroad safety inspection protocol report checklist”)?
- Did you check the document for spelling, grammar, and readability?