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Designing your document

Centre for Plain Legal Language, 1993

Language and design work together to make your document easy to read, and easy to use. Good design acts as a map for your reader. It signposts important material and makes information easier to find.

Good design will:

Good design is not complicated. You should think about design for all your documents - including letters. Make your document more reader friendly by following these guidelines:

Before you start

Length of lines
Spacing between lines (leading)
Upper and lower case (capitals and small letters)
Justification (alignment)
White space (space without printing)
Highlighting information
Other keys to find information
Be consistent!
Checklist for writing in plain language

Centre for Plain Legal Language, 1993

Every document has its own purpose. This means that there is no formula for writing in plain language. But following those guidelines will remind you of things to look out for as you write.

Think before you write

Think about the structure first
Think about the content of each sentence and paragraph
Think about the language you use
Think about your choice of words
Design your document to help your reader
Make sure you are writing plain language
Plain Language Materials Checklist

from Gateways to the Law: an exploratory study of how non-profit agencies assist clients with legal problems, S. Scott and C. Sage, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, 2001

This checklist for plain language legal information has been compiled from interviews with community workers in which they were asked what they find effective in plain language materials about the law.