Clear English Standard for websites

Clear English Standard for websites
(22 September 2021)

PLC Clear English Standard
PLC Clear English Standard Gold

What the Clear English Standard shows

Plain Language Commission has vetted the accredited website for clarity and ease of use. After assessment against the criteria shown below, we have permitted the site to display the Clear English Standard at one of the two levels, regular or gold.

Criteria

For us to award the Clear English Standard, most of the pages should be clear, well written and free from errors of grammar, spelling and punctuation. The tone of voice should be consistently pleasant and welcoming, where that’s appropriate. Proofreading errors and broken links should be rare. The site should be highly accessible (see https://www.w3.org/WAI/ for help). Page layout should be excellent or at least generally good. Overall, the site should be easy to read and use. At the gold level, we expect a much higher all-round standard and we’re likely to check the site more often. Our accreditation is always an opinion, not a clarity guarantee.

Some accredited sites are very large and often updated. We don’t always know what changes the owner has made, but our regular spot-checks aim to keep sites at a good standard of clarity. If you find errors or things you think are unclear, feel free to let us know by using our contact form.

Our website accreditation does not cover published documents, news items and blogs that may appear on the site. Sites may have sections that use technical language that is intended to be read by people to whom that language is likely to be clear. 

An accredited site should meet most of the criteria shown by the following questions:

Purpose
  • Is the purpose of the material obvious or stated early and clearly?
Content
  • Is the information accurate, up to date, relevant and complete, anticipating questions and answering them?
  • Is essential jargon explained or defined?
  • Are contact points stated for readers who want to know more?
Structure and usability
  • Is the information well organized and easy to navigate through, with suitable headings, sub-headings, links, and other signposting?
  • Is there suitable use of graphics, tables, diagrams and summary panels?
Style and grammar
  • Is the language appropriate for the audience, with a good average sentence length (say 15–20 words) and reasonably short paragraphs?
  • Is the material free of pomposity, verbosity and officialese?
  • Is the text grammatically sound and well punctuated?
  • Is capitalization consistent in text and headings?
    Are vertical lists set up coherently and are they punctuated in a consistent way? (Contact us for a guide on how to do this.)
  • If some areas of the site are written in technical language, are these areas obvious to non-technical readers so they can choose to avoid them?
  • Are technical terms explained (say in hyperlinks) if this is appropriate?
Layout and design
  • Overall, does the site look good?
  • Is the type highly legible and is there ample space between lines of type?
  • Is there a clear hierarchy of headings and spaces?
  • Have bold type and colour been used consistently and well?

Plain Language Commission is dedicated to helping businesses, organizations and individuals communicate more clearly. If you want to discuss how we could help you, drop us an email to mail@clearest.co.uk and we’ll phone you.