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What is this plain language tool?

This tool lists frequently used terms in public health materials and their common, everyday alternatives in plain language sentences. Original sentence examples come from materials on CDC.gov. Some words and phrases may have multiple meanings, so check the context of use before you substitute. Remember, it might not be enough to delete jargon and substitute an everyday word in materials for the nonexpert public. You may have to rewrite the entire sentence or sentences and use multiple techniques. As a rule, you help readers when you:

  • Write short sentences.
  • Use active voice.
  • Use everyday words and pronouns (when appropriate).

Who should use this tool?

  • Federal employees and contractors writing for the nonexpert public
    • The Plain Writing Act says that federal agencies must use plain language in public communication.
  • Anyone writing for an audience that will benefit from jargon-free language
    • Consider the intended audience, and use the language that will make the most sense to them.
When you do need to reach a broad, public audience without specialized knowledge about a topic, everyday words are the most appropriate language to help the most people understand the information.

Does this tool include all medical and public health jargon?

No, this tool includes many but not all common public health terms used in materials on CDC.gov. For example, the tool doesn’t include specialized disease, health condition, anatomy, or physiology terms. We will periodically add relevant, widely-used terms and examples.

Help improve this tool with audience testing

If you do audience testing of these terms or other public health or medical words, please send your results to the CDC Office of the Associate Director for Communication Science health literacy team at clearcommunication@cdc.gov. We want to use the results to update and share the list with others so they can learn which terms work better for different audiences.