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Standards and principles

Plain language equity standard

All state departments should:

  • Provide information to the public at an 8th grade reading level or lower
  • Use smaller, more common words
  • Avoid jargon and technical terms as much as possible
  • Keep sentences short and simple

This standard applies to print and digital information.

Key considerations

It can be a challenge to balance plain language and accuracy. Achieve the lowest reading level you can.

Write for your audience. Using technical terms might be appropriate if you're writing for a specialized audience. Examples include attorneys, scientists, or engineers.

Cite laws, code, or regulations as written. Summarize this information whenever possible to help people understand it.


  • Code: The text of laws, as found at California Legislative Information
  • Department: A department, commission, office, or other administrative agency of state government
  • Jargon: Words used by specialists that are not used or understood by the average person

Where to start

  • Begin with documents you are already working on.
  • Focus on documents that have the highest impact on outcomes for Californians like:
    • Applications
    • Appeals
  • When addressing language access issues, start by writing in plain language in English.