Plain Talk

Policy Approve By
Scott McCallum, Superintendent
Policy Date (original policy date)
Policy Prepared By
Janet Kurz, Executive Assistant
Policy Category


The purpose of this policy is to help Washington State School for the Blind (WSSB) employees write content that is clear, concise, inclusive, and straightforward for the intended audience.


Executive cabinet agencies are expected to produce clear communications that improve a person’s ability to understand how to access services and comply with requirements (Governor’s Executive Order 23-02).



Plain language is a proven technique for improving communication and reducing misunderstandings and frustration. Benefits of plain language include:


  • Achieving better services and results for customers
  • Improving customers’ ability to comply with requirements
  • Making WSSB operations more efficient and cost-effective
  • Enabling more culturally appropriate translations
  • Advancing equity
  • Supporting transparency



This policy covers written communications regardless of the audience’s level of understanding, cultural background, socioeconomic status, and other factors. Written communications include the following:


  • Letters and correspondences
  • Forms, instructions, and applications
  • Reports
  • Publications
  • Email
  • Webpages
  • Social media posts
  • Presentations and meeting materials
  • Any other written, printed, or published material


This policy strongly encourages—the use of plain language principles in internal communications.


This policy excludes Washington Administrative Code (WAC) and Revised Code of Washington (RCW) language that follows requirements of the Office of the Code Reviser. However, explanations of WACs or RCWs should be “plain talked” for use in publications, forms, letters, and other communications.




The intended recipients of a specific communication


Culturally appropriate

Taking into account a set of values, beliefs, norms, perceptions, experiences, and customs shared by a group of people


Culturally sensitive

Being aware of people’s lived experiences and recognizing that words have different meanings for everyone. Approaching the language we use with care, humility, intention, and inclusiveness.



Individuals and organizations WSSB serves and works with


WSSB staff

All employees, supervisors, and managers WSSB employs


Plain talked

The result of a process that creates or revises a document to reflect plain language principles



The process of making a document easier for the audience to understand by testing it with members of the audience and considering their feedback



  1. WSSB staff are expected to use plain language principles in written communications with internal and external customers, other individuals, and organizations we communicate with about WSSB programs, activities, and decisions. User-testing, while not required, is encouraged where feasible, cost-effective, and sensible.

    Plain language principles include:
    1. Clear language that is culturally appropriate for the intended audience.
    2. Present only the information needed by the recipient and put it in an order that makes sense for the audience.
    3. Short sentences.
    4. Use an active voice that makes it clear who is responsible for what.
      1. Note: Some cultures prefer passive voice; it is important to understand the audience’s preference.
    5. Layout and design that help the reader understand the meaning on the first try. This includes adequate white space, bulleted lists, helpful headings, and other proven techniques.
  2. Employees in the following class titles and roles are required to complete the plain language training at the Department of Enterprise Services:
    1. Executive leadership team members
    2. Contracts manager
    3. Human Resources director
    4. Designated website contributors
    5. Program managers


  1. WSSB will designate an employee to serve as the agency’s plain language lead.


  1. WSSB may make exceptions to this policy to comply with federal and state law requiring reasonable accommodation of individuals with disabilities or with requirements resulting from legal action.


ReferenceExecutive Order 23-02