Zoning Codes in Plain English

Zoning Practice — January 2015

By Benjamin Noble


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Many zoning codes are written in a traditional legal style often referred to as legalese. The good news is that legalese is not a requirement. Planners and zoning professionals can draft regulations in plain English, a style of writing that uses the most economical, familiar, and precise language to communicate our ideas.

Plain English aims to maximize readers' ability to find what they need, understand what they find, and use what they find to meet their needs. Plain English documents are organized in a consistent and logical way, with familiar words and simple sentences that maximize reader comprehension. By extension, a plain English zoning code is easily understood by all users, including residents, applicants, planners, and local officials.

This issue of Zoning Practice discusses a series of key plain English principles for planners and zoning professionals to apply in code writing. Many of these principles fall into five general categories: (1) organization, (2) wayfinding, (3) sentence length, (4) sentence structure, and (5) word choice.


Page Count
Date Published
Jan. 1, 2015
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Author

Benjamin Noble