Clarify difficult or confusing words

Identify words that can be difficult or confusing and make them understandable.

Meeting the Web Accessibility Standard

While it’s not mandatory to meet the following 4 WCAG requirements associated with these best practices in order to meet the NZ Government Web Accessibility Standard, it’s strongly recommended.

Level AAA requirements are not necessarily more difficult to achieve: They’re often just harder to test reliably because they involve more subjective assessment.

Why it’s important to make all words understandable

Ensuring that all words are understandable means that your information will be more accessible to people who:

How to make difficult words understandable

The following are 4 best practices for making the meaning of more difficult or potentially confusing words understandable to people with diverse abilities.

Unusual words

Define unusual words or phrases like idioms and any jargon — though, where possible, avoid these and write in plain language.

If you must use unusual or specialist words, there are a variety of techniques that you can use to make them accessible, such as providing a glossary.

For more details, see:


Provide the expanded form or meaning of an abbreviation, acronym or initialism the first time you use it. Alternatively, link it to its definition on the same or another page.

For more details, see:

Reading level

If the text requires advanced reading ability, provide a version or summary of the text that can be read by people with a lower secondary education reading ability.

For more details, see:


Indicate the specific pronunciation of words where what the words means is not clear without knowing how they are pronounced.

Example of pronunciation provided for word with ambiguous meaning

‘The tear (teə) on the handkerchief’.

The pronunciation is provided in parentheses, using the Oxford English Dictionary’s Key to pronunciation: New Zealand English, to indicate that the word “tear” means a rip in the material and not water from someone’s eyes.

For more details on ways to indicate the pronunciation of words, see:

Testing for difficult or confusing words