Plain Language Commission . Clear English Standard

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News & views

Plain English Lexicon re-launched

[26 May 2011] Are you unsure whether people understand the legal use of ‘determine’ to mean ‘terminate’, whether ‘perpetrator’ is easier than ‘wrongdoer’, or whether ‘while’ is more common than ‘whilst’? It’s often hard to know what words your readers are likely to understand or to see regularly.

The second edition of our research director Martin Cutts’s unique ‘Plain English Lexicon’ enables you to make informed decisions about the familiarity and frequency of 2,700 words that sometimes occur in public-information documents – more than double the number in the first edition, published in 2007. The lexicon draws on two important pieces of research evidence: the US Living Word Vocabulary and the British National Corpus of 100 million words.

In her foreword to the lexicon, Christine Mowat, past chair of the Plain Language Association InterNational (PLAIN), writes: ‘Specialists in our field believe that language is the property of the people: it is bound to be even more so with access to this lexicon on Plain Language Commission’s website.’ Described by Christine as an ‘ingenious tool’ and ‘a fine gift to our field’, the lexicon can be downloaded free of charge from this website, under ‘Publications’.

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