About i-Base guides

i-Base treatment guides use plain English

Plain English lets more people easily understand written text.

  • We use everyday words whenever we can.
  • The language is also more direct.
  • Any technical words are explained.
  • Reading ease scores are also checked.

The notes below explain how to write this way.

For example, the information on this web page has a Flesch-Kincaid reading ease score of 74 and reading grade of 5.2  (reading age 8 to 9). There are an average of 9.3 words per sentence. Only 2% of sentences use the passive tense.

These scores come from this free online readability checker. (See readability section below).

Access: online, PDF and print

All guides are available in print and online as web pages and as PDF files.

Print copies can be ordered online. These are free to people in the UK and to UK clinics and support groups.


We like our resources to be translated – now into more than 35 languages. However, please check the date of translations.

Translations can include adapting the text when this is needed. See: Adapting i-Base materials (

It is also easy to get a good rough translation using Google translate.

Guidelines for community information

  1. Information needs to be clear, concise, accurate, relevant and up-to-date.
  2. All information should have the published date.
  3. Exact language should explain each point. Each word is important.
  4. The word order in each sentence should be the most direct. (See below).
  5. When there is more than one treatment choice or explanation, we explain the differences.
  6. State clearly when something is not known or when evidence is limited.
  7. Facts are usually more helpful than general statements, especially to quantify adjectives.
  • Instead of “some people” or “most people” it is more useful to write “1 in 10 people” etc. This format is easier to understand than “10% of people”.
  • Instead of “soon” or “quickly”, give a rough idea in hours/days/weeks/years etc. Does “soon” mean today or sometime this month?
  • When referring to a test result being “high” or “low”, quantify this and include a reference range.

Non-technical language

  1. Information should be clear to read and easy to understand. It should be easy to read for as many people as possible.
  2. This involves taking care with how it is written.
  3. Many people do not have high literacy.
  4. Most people do not have formal medical training.
  5. English is not the first language for many people.
  6. Information is easier to understand if it uses simple short sentences. We aim for 12 to 15 words. It is difficult to understand a sentence with 30, 40, 50 or more words. A short sentence is always easier to understand than a long one.
  7. Reading age of 12 is a good guide for medical information or information about health. This is similar to tabloid newspapers. Depending on how this is calculated, a reading age of 12 will include 70 to 90% of adults.

Words, sentences and paragraphs

Easy ways to increase how many people will be able to easily understand your text.

  1. Use words with 1-2 syllables rather than longer words.
  2. Use short sentences. Aim for 10-12 words on average. Short sentences make the text more clear and lively. No sentence should need more than 15 words.
  3. Use short paragraphs. Ideally 1-3 sentences per paragraph, using short sentences. Each paragraph should only make one clear point.
  4. Include space between paragraphs so people can puase as they read.
  5. Include a balance of space on every page to be less text-heavy.
  6. Use the active tense rather than passive voice or tense. Active sentences are easier to understand.
  7. If technical terms are important, explain these in non technical language.
  8. Include a glossary.
  9. Personal stories can make the information much more real.
  10. Check readability score online for any text (see below)


  1. Larger headings make each section clear.
  2. Consider an introduction paragraph in a larger typeface or bold type.
  3. Use shorter subheadings through the text.
  4. Use bold formatting and/or a larger type subheadings than for body text.
  5. Text size should ideally be 12 point (12 pt).
  6. Leave space between lines with an additional half space between paragraphs.
  7. Leave space on the page – no more than 75% text, 50% is even better.
  8. Include pictures.
  9. Include graphs and tables if information would be clearer in this format.
  10. Include summaries with bullet points for conclusions.
  11. If printing in colour, ensure good contrast for text. Do not use white text against light tone backgrounds. Do not use dark text against dark backgrounds.
  12. Test a colour leaflet with a black and white photocopy. If anything can’t be easily read, the contrast needs to be changed.

Readability scores and plain English

There are several ways to measure how easy information is to read. One of the most widely used is the Flesch-Kincaid readability ease score.

The Flesch-Kincaid reading ease score usually ranges from 0 (very difficult) to 100 (very easy).

It is calculated using a formula that includes looking at the average length or words, sentences and paragraph. There is also a conversion to US school reading grade. (Sixth grade is about 11-12 year old reading age and 12th grade is about 18 year old reading age).

Reading ease scores

  • Higher than 70 is ideal (11-12 year old reading age – US 6th grade). Long words and medical terms reduce readability.
  • 60–70 is a reading age of 13-15 and above 70 should be a minimum.
  • 30 and lower is graduate level (technical). Negative scores are possible.

i-Base guides aim for a reading grade/age of about 11-12. This is a US grade 6-7).

We aim for a reading ease score of 70 or higher.

The following are a few of the many free online readability tools. – currently used by i-Base. – Click the “write” button to paste in text at the top of the page. You can edit online to see changes. Also has an App. – Basic facility to paste text into an online. – Good site but that now requires a login.

They let you cut and paste text and produced instant scores. Some sites let you edit the text to see how this changes the readability score. But, each site is likely to score exactly the same text slightly differently.

For example, the information on this web page has a Flesch-Kincaid reading ease score of 74 and reading grade of 5.2  (reading age 8 to 9). There are an average of 9.3 words per sentence. Only 2% of sentences use the passive tense.

Microsoft Word can calculate the Flesch-Kincaid reading scores. This option in the spelling and grammar menu is an easy way to check text. The settings can also highlight grammar, such as passive sentences.

Last updated: 1 July 2021.