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Biology 3301 Course Guide

Translating the Research


Write in plain language. Plain language is simple, direct writing that the audience can read, understand, and act upon. In general, plain language uses:
Common, everyday words (but not colloquial or slang words)

  • Active voice
  • A conversational tone
  • Personal pronouns (such as “you”)
  • One- and two-syllable words
  • A lower reading level
  • Simple sentence structure, punctuation, and grammar


Address readers in a friendly, conversational tone (as if the reader has asked the writer about health
improvement and the writer is providing helpful information). Avoid sounding overly formal or academic (but maintain correct grammar and usage).
Grammatical person:

  • Prefer second-person (you).
  • Limit or avoid first-person (we); always avoid “I.”
  • Limit or avoid the formal, impersonal third-person (one, an individual, a person).
  • Educational/how-to: Lots of tips and steps that help the reader take action

Reading Level: Reading level is the grade school level required to read a piece as measured on a reading scale.Write all content at a 5th–6th grade reading level, provided the information can be safely and accurately communicated at this level. This ensures that the health information is accessible and usable to the greatest number of people.

Note that reading level is determined by the number of syllables per word and the number of words per sentence. Therefore, in order to reduce reading level, reduce sentence length and cut out multisyllabic words. (See tips on the left)

Reading level examples (same passage):

  • 12th grade reading level (too high):

This guide is designed to provide  you with the resources needed to improve your health and reduce the risk of disease by kicking the tobacco habit. By properly channeling your motivation and developing strategies that work, you will be able to break this habit and learn new, healthier habits to take its place.

  • 6th grade reading level (easier to read):

This guide gives you the tools you need to kick the tobacco habit. By quitting, you can cut your risk of disease and improve your health. With strong motivation and the tools here, you can break this habit and learn new, healthier habits to take its place.

Use plain language:

  • Use positive expressions.
  • Translate complex concepts into more basic ideas (where possible).
  • Eliminate complex concepts that cannot be boiled down to essentials.
  • Avoid long, grammatically complex sentences (lots of phrases, clauses).
  • Avoid wordiness and unnecessary repetition.

Organize and link:

  • Focus on one main idea per sentence. (Avoid sentences that ask the reader to focus on multiple, complex ideas at once.)
  • Focus on one main topic per paragraph. (Avoid paragraphs that ask the reader to focus on multiple topics at once.)
  • Structure content logically.
  • Link ideas in a step-by-step fashion.
    • As an example, use the last word of a sentence to begin the next sentence.
    • Use clear transitions between ideas/ paragraphs.

Make it easy to scan:

  •  Use subheads (liberally).
  • Use bullets.
  • Write in short paragraphs.
    • Use insets (to highlight key information, sentences).

Keep it consistent:

  • Keep sentences at a consistent reading level. Don’t bury one long, complex sentence in a paragraph of basic sentences. The reading level for the whole paragraph may still be low, but that one sentence may stop the reader.
  • The same premise holds true for paragraphs. Keep all of the paragraphs in a piece at as consistent a reading level as possible.



Plagiarism is the use or imitation of another person's language, thoughts, or work in a way that presents it as one's own work. Basically, plagiarism is when you use or pass off someone else’s work as your own without giving them credit. This can include paraphrasing others words and/or changing the word order without acknowledgement or citing properly.

Avoid plagiarism by doing the following:

  • Acknowledge or properly cite sources you use, including
    • Someone’s idea or theory
    • Images, graphs, drawings, etc.
    • Quotations of someone’s actual spoken or written words
  • Paraphrasing and citing all things borrowed and not “common knowledge” – i.e., information known well by your target audience.
  • When in doubt, CITE!
To learn more about plagiarism, please see the UT Arlington Libraries Plagiarism Tutorial.