Writing in easy language

Texts can be written either directly in easy language or existing standard language texts can be adapted to easy language. The guidelines for easy language texts have been divided under three main categories:

  • text
  • words
  • structures

More detailed guidelines on our Finnish-language pages

Text

A writer of easy language has to pay attention to how the text will be constructed as a whole. The writer has to consider, for example, how much information the text contains and whether the perspective is appropriate for the reader. The writer also has to consider if any essential information is missing from the easy language text or if it leaves too much for the reader to conclude.

Designing the contents and entity of the text to best serve the reader is often the hardest part of writing easy language text.

Words

The words are usually the first thing in a text that catch the attention of the reader. Finnish words can be very long, and compounds consisting of several words are used a lot compared to many other languages. Long words, paired with the Finnish inflectional system, can make reading very difficult for a person who needs easy language. A writer of easy language texts also needs to keep in mind that the reader’s vocabulary is not as broad as it is with readers of standard language texts.

Words can also mean different things in different contexts. This means that writers of easy language text have to endeavor to have the words in the text appear in a form as easy as possible to understand and in their typical meaning. The surrounding sentence and its structure also influence how easily the meanings of a word are understood by the reader. Easy language favors commonly known words and explains difficult words when they are necessary to use.

An example of a difficult standard language word that you should consider carefully before using and explain if using:

Equal suffrageEqual suffrage means that all Finnish people have the same right to vote in elections 

An example of a word that can be replaced with a more common and easier word:

early education unit (official) -> daycare center (colloquial) -> daycare

Structures

The Finnish inflection system contains forms that can be difficult for users of easy language. Difficult word constructions are usually less commonly used in colloquial language. Even the common inflections can cause difficulties because they may change the substems. Vocabulary structures are further complicated by combinations of different inflected forms and suffixes and affixes with the changes they produce in the word stem. In easy language these are used with consideration and endeavored to be broken into separate words.

Example of a difficult word structure in standard Finnish:

Joulutontuillekohan?Maybe for the elves of Santa Claus?
Menemmeköhän? I wonder if we will go?

Besides the inflected forms, the writer of easy text has to pay attention to the structure and length of clauses and sentences and to the coherence of the text.

Influence of text genre

In Finland efforts have been made to develop the guidelines to take  into account the tasks and purpose of different types of texts more carefully. Therefore the guidelines emphasize different aspects and even differ from each other partly depending on what type of text the writer intends to produce. The book Selkokirjoittajan tekstilajit (Kulkki-Nieminen & Leskelä 2015, in Finnish) describes the impacts of text genre on how easy language text is written.

Read more about guidelines for writing easy-to-read text (in Finnish)

Overview of theoretical literature on easy-to-read language (in Finnish).

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