Plain language is communication that non-expert audiences can understand the first time they read or hear it.
It plays a key role in the field of healthcare, where healthcare consumers sometimes struggle to understand medical phraseology and high-level medical terms.
Cochrane, an international scientific organization that produces large-scale meta-analyses of clinical trials, called Systematic Reviews (SR), believes that it is of primary importance to make evidence easily accessible and understandable for everybody. For this reason, they publish two distinct kinds of texts for each Systematic Review: the Scientific Abstract (ABS), intended for experts and researchers, and the Plain Language Summary (PLS), which targets the general public.
Towards a Linguistic Definition of ‘Simplified Medical English’: Applying Textometric Analysis to Cochrane Medical Abstracts and Their Plain Language Versions, a paper published by a group of professors and researchers from Université de Paris, shows the results of a comparison between a corpus of ABS and its corresponding corpus of PLS in order to identify some of the main lexico-grammatical characteristics of Plain Language Summaries. The comparison was carried out using textometric analysis, which is a method used for the digital representation of a text. The results of this analysis may provide useful recommendations for those who wish to write abstracts of Systematic Reviews in plain and accessible English.
World Health Organization. 2020. Use plain language. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.who.int/about/communications/understandable/plain-language. [Accessed 28 April 2020].
Plain Language Action and Information Network. 2020. What is plain language? | plainlanguage.gov. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.plainlanguage.gov/about/definitions/. [Accessed 28 April 2020].
Cochrane Community. 2020. Cochrane Style Manual | Cochrane Community. [ONLINE] Available at: https://community.cochrane.org/style-manual. [Accessed 28 April 2020].
Written by Elisa Callegari. Translator and linguist, she has a great interest in terminology and formation of neologisms.