scrabble tiles spelling out 'keep it simple'By Mary Shelato, WriterGirl client services manager

At WriterGirl, we’re passionate about many things, and at the top of the list is words. (Second, of course, to our friends and families.) So, I consider myself especially lucky to write the blog that’s so close to National Scrabble Day on April 13.

Before we dive in, I want to thank Alfred Mosher Butts for creating a wonderful game that allows me to eloquently triumph over my friends and family during game nights.

You may be thinking, “Great, April 13 is National Scrabble Day — how does that relate to WriterGirl?” Plain language of course!

What is plain language?

According to, “Plain English is clear, straightforward expression, using only as many words as are necessary. It is language that avoids obscurity, inflated vocabulary and convoluted sentence construction.”

To put that in plain language, it means to provide content for your patients and readers that’s easy to read and understand. For many institutions, it also means keeping content between a 6th and 8th-grade reading level.

It means saying, “To help avoid issues after your surgery, walk around as soon as you can.” Instead of, “After your arthroplasty, you are encouraged to saunter around to avoid undesirable complications.”

What does that last sentence actually say? I wrote it and I’m still not really sure.

Use strategy to help you win big

What’s the connection between plain language and Scrabble, exactly? Words commonly used with plain language are easier to play. But if you strategize, those simple words can also help you score a humongous number of points. (Triple word score anyone?)

Seriously, try playing “flan” while hitting some big scoring squares instead of holding out to play “oxymoron.” The results won’t lie.

The same thing applies to plain language. You may feel like it’s too easy, or maybe that a sentence written in plain language doesn’t sound fancy enough for a medical institution. But when used correctly and strategically, plain language will help you win big with your patients, and with prospective patients. If a reader doesn’t understand what you’re saying, it doesn’t matter how fancy you sound.

It’s pop quiz time! Quick — without asking a doctor, what does this mean: “An angioplasty is an endovascular procedure to treat arterial atherosclerosis”? No clue? Me neither.

If we don’t know what that sentence means, why should we expect visitors to a hospital’s website to read it and learn about its wonderful cardiac surgery program? Most likely, they wouldn’t.

You can still sound smart — and win big — with simple, straightforward content. After all, an angioplasty can be described as a surgery used to treat a blocked artery, just like an A1C test can be described as a test to check for diabetes.

Using smaller words can make a big difference.

The gift of words

So, what is National Scrabble Day without the gift of words? I’m glad you asked. Gift giving is not my love language, but an appreciation for verbose wittiness is.

Here are some healthcare words that will help you achieve monumental victory against your opponents. Disclaimer: They will not help you reach your plain language goals!

  • Qi – 10 points
  • Pandemic – 15 points
  • Coronavirus – 16 points
  • Oxazepam – 28 points
  • Psychoanalyzing – 38 points
  • Hyperimmunizing – 37 points
  • Oxyphenbutazone – 41 points

If you manage to play “oxyphenbutazone” in a Scrabble game, please make sure to tag WriterGirl on social media so we can witness such a monumental whizbang (we’re on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter). If social media isn’t your thing, email me!

Don’t worry if you got the answer to the pop quiz wrong. Sometimes no matter how indestructible your preparations are, the results rendered are still inefficacious. (You can score bonus points on the pop quiz if you can identify some of the high-scoring Scrabble favorites woven into this article.)

We’d love to help you win

Looking to learn more about plain language and how to optimize content for your readers? These free tools can help you hone your plain language skills.

If you need plain language pros, WriterGirl is here for you. Drop us a line anytime to learn how our writers and editors can help you create content that wins with patients.