Plain English Lexicon

Free research-based booklet showing which words are likely to be familiar to your readers.
Click to download Plain English Lexicon booklet
Not sure whether ‘determine’ is an easier word than ‘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.

Now, our unique ‘Plain English Lexicon’ enables you to make informed choices about the familiarity and frequency of 2,700 words that sometimes occur in public-information documents.

The lexicon (second edition, June 2011) draws on two important pieces of research evidence: the ‘Living Word Vocabulary’ (a rare book published in the USA and not available in online form) and the 100-million-word British National Corpus.

Foreword by Christine Mowat.

Download (4MB)

Correction: In the lexicon, we quote (with some incredulity) the UK Basic Skills Agency’s interpretation of the SMOG readability index. N Watson Solomon (aka Nirmaldasan) has pointed out that a SMOG score of 9 in fact ‘permits as many as 12 polysyllabic words in 10 sentences. In 30 sentences, there may be 36 polysyllabic words’. (Email to the author, 14 March 2016)