Plain Language Terms and Phrases

Plain language makes communications easier for the public to read, understand and use the first time they see or hear it. Learn more about plain language or find more plain language word and phrase replacements.

Avoid Use Notes and Examples
a number of some  
access use  
actively participate be involved  
additional added, more, other  
adolescent teen or teenager  
alien immigrant  
alternative choice  
and/or or, and, or both, and both Not correct: Call us if you are enrolled in Medicare and/or Medicaid.

Correct: Call us if you are enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid or both.

annual once a year  
annually yearly  
applicant [should usually avoid] Instead of Medicaid applicant, use person who applied for Medicaid.
appoint name  
appointment visit  
approximately about  
assist help  
attempt try  
available ready  
case person, resident  
category group  
cavity/cavities tooth decay  
certified are approved, will get Not correct: You are certified for Medicaid on Oct. 1, 2009.

Correct: You are approved for Medicaid starting Oct. 1, 2009.

check up, check-up checkup Federal directive (Frew lawsuit): Use checkup or the Spanish chequeo when referring to a Medicaid medical or dental service provided through Texas Health Steps.
chronic illness long-lasting illness  
communicate talk  
competent able Can also use has the skills to.
completion end, finish  
comply meet the program rules  
concerning about, on  
consent agree to  
contact us call us (if only a phone number is listed) / email us (if only an email address is listed)  
contains has  
continue keep getting or keep going  
contraception birth control  
decrease reduce, lower  
demonstrate show  
dependent [avoid] Not correct: Dependent care costs

Correct: Costs for people who depend on you.

denied not approved, will not get Not correct: Your Medicaid case has been denied.

Correct: You are not approved for Medicaid.

detect find  
determine find out, see if, decide  
difficulties problems, trouble  
discontinue stop  
disenroll leave the program  
disqualified no longer meets the program rules, can no longer be in the program, not able to get  
drug, on first reference when referring to prescription medication medicine, medicines, medication, prescription, prescription drugs Drug is acceptable on second reference or if context is clear.
due to because  
educated (v) or be informed learn about  
effective date start date, the date you can start getting services  
eligible are able to get Eligible and eligibility are both complex, multisyllabic words. Try to avoid using them by restructuring the sentence.
encourage urge  
endeavor try  
enroll join  
ensure make sure  
establish set up, prove, show  
exceeds is more than  
exhausted (v) gone through, used up  
exhibit show  
expedite speed up  
facilitate help, ease  
failed to didn’t  
feasible can be done  
finalize complete, finish  
for more information To learn more: Questions? Call xxx-xxx-xxxx …  
frequently often  
function act, role, work  
fundamental basic  
head of household contact person If head of household needs to be used, provide a definition.

Example: The head of household is the main caretaker of the people applying for services.

See household.

household [should usually avoid] Not correct: Household composition

Correct: People living in your home or People on your benefits case.

See head of household.

however but  
identical same  
impacted affected, changed  
impair harm This refers to the use of impair as a transitive verb, not a pejorative.
implement carry out, start  
in accordance with by, following, per, under  
in addition also, besides, too  
in an effort to to  
indigent people who are low-income  
individual, individuals person, people, resident, person receiving services Use person unless there’s a need to distinguish the person you’re referring to from a multiple-person group.

Individual is acceptable when part of a standardized phrase or acronym such as intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ICF/IID).

ineligible not able to get  
inform tell  
information fact See for more information.
initial first  
initiate begin, start  
in lieu of instead  
in order that for, so  
in order to to  
in regard to about, concerning, on  
maintain your health stay healthy  
make sure to … [should usually avoid] Not correct: Make sure to apply for Medicaid.

Correct: Apply for Medicaid, or Remember to apply for Medicaid.

maximum greatest, largest most  
Medicaid ID form Medicaid ID  
minimum least, smallest  
modify change  
no later than by  
notification notice  
notify tell  
numerous many  
occur happen  
opportunity chance  
option choice  
permission agree to, allow  
persons people Use people when it makes sense to do so and when a legal obligation does not require the use of persons. In those cases, the use of persons is permissible.
person on Medicaid person who has Medicaid Not correct: Texas Health Steps checkups are free as long as your child is on Medicaid.

Correct: Texas Health Steps checkups are free as long as your child has Medicaid.

pharmacy drugstore  
physician doctor, clinic, primary care provider See PCP/medical home.
previous earlier  
previously before  
primary care dentist, dental home main dentist  
PCP/medical home primary care provider or main doctor  
private health insurance other health insurance  
prior, prior to before  
process (v) to work on  
qualified are able to get  
qualified alien legal immigrant  
recertify renew, re-apply  
re-enroll renew, apply again  
regarding about, of, on  
relating to about  
remain stay  
request ask for  
required need or needed  
resolve fix  
resources (alone) things you own You might need to give examples of types of resources.

Example: Report a change if your resources are more than $10,000. This includes things like money you have in the bank, stocks, bonds and cash.

select pick  
several many  
shots vaccines, vaccinations Exception: When writing about flu shots in English materials, the word shot is OK to use.
similar to like  
slashes or, and  
stamped, self-addressed return envelope pre-paid envelope  
state-of-the-art latest  
suffer Avoid when writing about an illness. Suffer can be insulting when talking about conditions like mental illness.
sufficient enough  
telephone phone  
terminate end  
therefore so  
third party insurance or third party liability other insurance  
time period Use “time,” or use “period”  
ultimate last, final  
understand know  
utilize use  
vaccinations vaccines  
verification proof  
we are writing to tell you … [should usually avoid]  
you are required to you are responsible for you must