Easy English: Same as Easy Read?

Australian Easy English is for people with low or few literacy skills. It is not the same as Easy Read.

Girl sits with a book flicking pages and looking a little unhappy. She needs Books for Everyone.

According to Cathy Basterfield, Easy English is not the same as Easy Read. Her comparison of the two highlights some important differences.

Australian Easy English assumes almost no literacy skill. Material is presented with just three or four short sentences of 5 words on a page. Each sentence is accompanied by a relevant picture or graphic. This means there is a lot of white space which prevents visual confusion caused by lots of words. The aim of Easy English is to tell the reader what to do. It is not about conveying information.

Australian Easy Read on the other hand has an average of 10 words in a sentence. The document includes information which can make if difficult to find the “what to do” instruction. This format assumes a reading level of Grade 4. Unlike Easy English, images are used without headings and there is little white space.

44% of Australian adults do not have the literacy skills for everyday reading tasks such as reading product labels.

Rows of snack food line the supermarket shelves.
Black and white logo for easy read, has a tick and a open book

Long documents often have an Easy Read version which makes it easier for competent readers as well. After all, why read a long and complex report when you can get the same information with less words?

Making a document easy to read and understand is not itself an easy process. The development of Easy English and Easy Read is a mix of language, sentence structure, images and user testing. It’s a design challenge to analyse each element to see what works best.

Comparing the two

The examples below show some of the differences between Easy English and Easy Read. Cathy Basterfield has a succinct three page comparison of the two styles with clear examples.

page from Access Easy English on COVID.
Example of Easy English
A screenshot of the homepage of the website.
Example of Easy Read

More resources

Cathy Basterfield has developed several free Easy English versions of important information. She has a blog page that explains Easy English and Easy Read if you want to know more. 

Editor’s note: Even as a person with good literacy skills, I find Easy English a quick and easy way to understand the key points. I think much of the confusion in the community is due to politicians and others using lots of words when fewer would do, and speaking quickly. When journalists ask questions of politicians they add to the confusion because the politician says the same thing again only using different words. 

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