This is a DRAFT resource that supports Working Drafts of WCAG 3. Content in this resource is not mature and should not be considered authoritative. It may be changed, replaced or removed at any time.


🔙 WCAG 3.0 (Silver) Guidelines (Clear words)

Clear words

Use clear words.


Clear words guideline uses research-based strategies to improve the experience of individuals with cognitive and learning disabilities. Clear words help create more accessible content. Writing and editing in plain language means using:

  • Common words
  • Define words
  • Simple tense
  • Literal language
  • Avoid double negatives
  • Nested clauses
  • Diacritical marks (such as è, ñ, ç)


  • Clear words benefit individuals who live with cognitive and learning disabilities, language impairments, memory impairments, and autism.
  • People with language impairments often have a reduced vocabulary and learning new terms is a very slow difficult process. For other groups, such as people living with dementia, learning new terms is not realistic or possible. Using common words that they already know will make the content understandable and usable.
  • Simple tense, literal language, and active voice makes it clear what needs to be done for individuals who struggle to interpret implicit information.
  • Clear words improves everyone's reading success and allows for a broader audience.

Who it helps

There are many types of disabilities that can make it harder to read, including a large range of cognitive and learning disabilities, mental health conditions, aging-related conditions, print disabilities, and cognitive impacts of some chronic or other health conditions. It also helps people who are non-native language speakers.

Not all individuals with cognitive and learning disabilities have the same needs. Difficulties with reading vary by disability but also by individual. It’s important not to make assumptions. Many people with disabilities can understand specialized or complex information, but they may benefit from the same principles of clear words.

Clear words generally help everyone, especially people who may have difficulty reading due to disability. Reading may also be more difficult when tired, distracted, under stress, with low-literacy, when working outside one’s first language (such as with some sign language users), or when vision is impaired.


  • Write clearly and edit your content.
  • Follow principles for plain language.
  • Use a professional editor when possible.

Change Log

  • First draft (2020-09-18)
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