Skip to main content

The materials on this site are being phased out. For all new work, please refer to the OIT Brand System.

Accessible Text

Text is the key to accessibility, but creating textual equivalents to charts and images is only a fraction of the problem. First and foremost, the text in your documents must be easily understandable. In fact, there is a law that requires everything to be written in plain language .

Know Your Audience

One of the most popular plain language myths is that you have to "dumb down" your content so that everyone everywhere can read it. That's not true. The first rule of plain language is: write for your audience. Use language your audience knows and feels comfortable with. Take your audience's current level of knowledge into account. Don't write for an 8th grade class if your audience is composed of PhD candidates, small business owners, working parents or immigrants. Only write for 8th graders if your audience is, in fact, an 8th grade class.

However, just because you are writing for other Office of Information and Technology staff members, do not assume they know what you are talking about or are familiar with jargon you may use daily. At a minimum, spell out all acronyms and abbreviations on the first instance.

Things to Avoid

  • Acronyms and abbreviations
  • Technical jargon (know your audience)
  • Contractions
  • Slashes in place of "and" or "or" (e.g., "red and/or blue" should be "red or blue, or both")
  • Passive voice
  • Run on sentences and long paragraphs
  • Meaningless filler phrases
    • Thinking outside the box
    • Value added
    • Best practice
    • For all intents and purposes
    • Touch base
    • Integrating quality solutions
    • Promoting an informed and inclusive multicultural society
Official VA seal