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Graduate Certificate in Plain Language

​​​What is plain language and why should we study it?
Plain language is a set of guidelines used to simplify and clarify communications addressed to the general public. The guidelines include the use of simpler vocabulary, shorter sentences, lists, active voice, and shorter paragraphs, to name a few.

The Plain Writing Act of 2010 and the Executive Order 13263 in 2011 mandated clear communication in plain writing from all federal government agencies. However, plain language is an approach that is effectively used in many other areas, fields, and sectors besides federal government including

  • Medical and health communication
  • Web design and web writing
  • Public relations and marketing
  • Nonprofits
  • Business communication
  • Science and engineering
  • Law
  • State and local government offices, in addition to federal government

What are the benefits of getting a graduate certificate in plain language?
The Graduate Certificate in Plain Language is the first and only program in an institution of higher education in the nation. This graduate certificate will enhance your writing, design, and organization skills which can increase your employability and/or help you reach new heights in your career.

UHD is the first and only institution of higher education in the country that offers such a certificate program. If you are a professional working for an organization that distributes information to the general public, you need plain language skills.


What will I study?
You will study topics and complete practical projects that will enhance your communication skills.

During the coursework for the certificate, you will

  • develop a clear understanding of the history of the plain language movement
  • learn about current federal and state rules and regulations that affect communications addressed to the general public

You will also learn to

  • carefully analyze communication situations and assess target audiences, contexts, and purposes
  • write in plain style and employ a variety of writing, organization, and visual design principles
  • prepare a variety of print and electronic documents for a variety of contexts, including the government, medical institutions, and businesses
  • use basic usability techniques to collect data from users
  • edit documents for clarity and correctness

What courses will I take?
You will take three (3) graduate courses (9 credit hours):

  1. ENG 5304 Foundations of Professional & Technical Communication (3 credit hours)
  2. ENG 6324 Writing in the Professions Using Plain Language (3 credit hours)
  3. One elective course (3 credit hours) from the list below.

    Note: If you have extensive (3 years or more) related work experience in technical and professional communication or a graduate degree in technical communication, ENG 5304 can be substituted with another elective from the list below.

Elective courses to choose from:
ENG 5325 Advanced Medical Writing
ENG 5330 Visual Design Theory
ENG 5340 Project Management
ENG 6303 Public Relations & Media
ENG 6310 Intercultural & World Communication
ENG 6318 Stylistics & Editing
ENG 6322 Instructional Design
ENG 6328 Hypermedia Theory & Design
ENG 6330 Usability Research
ENG 6331 Grant Writing for Nonprofit Management
With program approval, a directed study course or an upper-division undergraduate course if none of the listed courses are satisfactory or if a desired course is not offered that year.


How long will it take to complete the coursework?
Considering our course rotation, you will be able to complete your certificate within one calendar year. You can take one or two courses per regular semester.

Can I apply if I am a graduate student at UHD?

Yes, you can apply if you are a current MSTC student. The courses that you have taken will count toward the certificate. See the section: “How do I apply?”

Can I complete the certificate online?
Yes, you can complete the certificate online because the two required courses are offered online, as are many of the electives. Elective courses taught face-to-face are offered once a week at 5:30 p.m. at UHD in the Downtown area.

Is financial aid available?
Because it is a 9-credit hour certificate, you are not eligible to receive financial aid; however, UHD offers installment payment plans to ease your financial burden. In addition, you also have an option to claim your tuition as the education credits (for example, Lifetime Learning Credit) on your tax forms or get tuition reimbursement through your employer, if available.

How much will the graduate tuition cost?
You can find most recent tuition rates on the UHD's website under Admissions and AID. Click Tuition and Fees. Choose the appropriate academic year (AY) on the left-hand side bar. Select Graduate. For example, for AY 2018 (Fall 2017-Summer 2018), if you are taking one graduate course (3 credit hours), the tuition and mandatory fees for Texas residents will be $1,276.00. If you are taking two courses (6 credit hours), the tuition and fees will be $2,513.00. Please note, that the tuition and fees do not cover the cost of books, supplies, and living expenses.


Can I apply my graduate certificate credits toward a graduate degree?
Yes, you can. If you decide to pursue a master's degree in Technical Communication at UHD, you will be able to claim all courses that you have completed with a B or higher. In addition, most graduate programs in other universities accept a certain number of graduate courses from other degree programs if they are relevant to your course of study.

How do I apply?
The application deadlines are as follows:
Fall semester: Extended to Aug. 9
Spring semester: Extended to December 2
Summer semester: May 10, 2019

To apply, complete the following steps:

  1. Complete Apply Texas application form.
      a) Create a new Graduate School Admission application.
      b) Choose "Technical Communication" as your major.
      c) On Page 2, Educational Background,
      • under Question 3, Initial degree and Ultimate degree, choose "Certificate."
      • under Question 4, choose “Graduate Certificate in Plain Language.”
    • d) Pay $35 application fee
  2. Send your official transcript confirming your undergraduate (or graduate) degree to Graduate Admissions. If you are a UHD student, you can submit your transcript electronically through your online account.
  3. Email the following to the MSTC Degree Director:
    • a) a short statement (200-300 words) explaining why you are interested in the certificate and how you will use your newly acquired knowledge and skills in a given setting
      b) your résumé detailing your work experience and education

      NOTE: In the subject line, please specify "Plain Language Certificate Application."

The MSTC Graduate Advisory Committee will evaluate your application using a matrix based on the materials that are required for admission. The MSTC Degree Director will notify you, in writing, of the committee's decision.


Last updated 6/30/2020 8:53 AM