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Books

There are many important books about plain language. Most of them are not available online, but they are well worth acquiring. Here’s a list of our favorites:

  • The Art of Readable Writing, Rudolph Flesch. Yes, the Flesch of Flesch-Kincaid index.

  • Britain’s Plain Language Commission, a private-sector organization, has published a number of excellent books on plain language such as Lucid Law and other publications.

  • Doublespeak (1989), The New Doublespeak (1996), and Doublespeak Defined, by William D. Lutz, who formerly taught English at Rutgers University. He was also an attorney. In addition to helping the Security and Exchange Commission develop their plain English program, he published a number of excellent books on doublespeak.

  • Elements of Style, William Strunk and E.B. White.

  • The Federal Plain Language Guidelines, The Plain Language Action and Information Network (PLAIN). A great resource and your official guide for the Plain Writing Act of 2010.

  • Fine Art of Copyediting, Elsie Myers Stainton.

  • Garner’s Modern English Usage, Bryan Garner. More information than you will ever need to know about lexicography and the nuances of the English language.

  • How to Write Short, Roy Peter Clark.

  • If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? Relating to and Communicating with Others, from the Boardroom to the Bedroom, Alan Alda.

  • Legal Writing in Plain English Bryan Garner, 2013. The standard for plain legal writing and is very readable by non-lawyers. It covers all the most important plain language techniques. Bryan is one of our most important experts on legal writing. Bryan has several other important books on writing, including Garner’s Modern American Usage.

  • Letting Go of the Words, second edition: Writing Web Content That Works, Ginny Redish.

  • Lifting The Fog Of Legalese: Essays On Plain Language, Joseph Kimble, 2006. Kimble combines strong evidence and myth-busting arguments for plain legal language with much practical advice and many useful examples. And no other book is more likely to open lawyers’ eyes to the emptiness of legalese.

  • [Nicely Said: Writing for the Web with Style and Purpose](http://www.nicelysaid.co/), Nicole Fenton and Kate Kierfer Lee. Written by 18f employees.

  • On Writing, Stephen King.

  • On Writing Well, William Zinsser.

  • The Oxford Guide to Plain English, Martin Cutts, 2013. 25 easy-to-follow guidelines covering plain words, sentence length, active and passive voice, punctuation, grammar, planning, and good organization. The author advises writers not to be bound by common “non-rules” such as “never split an infinitive.”

  • Plain English for Lawyers, Richard Wydick, 1978. This is one of the first and still one of the best books about plain language, written for lawyers but helpful to everyone. It’s still the best seller of the Carolina Academic Press.

  • A Plain English Handbook, The Securities and Exchange Commission. Wonderful handbook on clear writing with a preface by Warren Buffet.

  • The Plain English Story, Plain English Campaign, 1993. Includes sections on writing plain English, design and layout the plain English way, and the results of a plain-English approach.

  • Plain Language for Lawyers, Michele Asprey, 2010. Another excellent book targeted at legal writing.

  • Several Short Sentences about Writing, Verlyn Klinkenborg.

  • Style: Writing with Clarity and Grace, Joseph M. Williams.

  • Usability in Government Systems: User Experience Design for Citizens and Public Servants, Elizabeth Buie.

  • Watch Your Language: a Lively, Informal Guide to Better Writing Emanating from the News Room of the New York Times, Theodore M. Bernstein.

  • Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experience, Whitney Quesenbery.

  • Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, Kory Stamper. A fun read about lexicography by a super-cool word nerd of Merriam Webster.

  • Word Up!, Marcia Riefer Johnston.

  • The Writing Coach, Lee Johns, 2004. A well-organized book on writing in plain language.

  • Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please, Joseph Kimble. This book has great real-world examples proving how plain language can save your organization money and time. Great if you need to explain the importance of plain language to your boss. Also contains bibliography.

  • Writing in Plain English, Robert Eagleson, 1991. Developed for public servants, but invaluable for anyone who wants to write more clearly. It provides a step-by-step guide to planning, writing, designing, and testing documents. Published by the Australian Government Publishing Service, available online.

  • Writing Readable Regulations, Tom Murawski. A must-read for regulatory writers! You can have clearly written regulations.

  • Writing with Precision, Jefferson Bates.