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Give us your feedback?

We’ve all felt the frustration of filling out an online comment card that looks like it was created by someone who had never seen the website you want to comment on in the first place. “Have a Comment?” the site asks enthusiastically. You click on the digital Comment Card link. The page opens, and you scan for the options that most closely match your feedback. It’s not there.


A Short History of the Center for Plain Language

As we look ahead to 2017, let’s take a look back at where we began.

How did the Center begin?

In the mid-1990s, a group of federal Plain Language advocates met monthly in Washington, DC. We called ourselves PEN – the Plain English Network. In 2000, we changed the name to PLAIN – the Plain Language Action and Information Network. And PLAIN still exists today.

A 47-word road sign

Financial Product Legalese – It’s on you

The Center for Plain Language had this to say about the legal fine print that overran one advertisement for an investment product: “Once again a financial institution that expects me to trust them with my money makes it impossible for me to know what they are going to do with my money.”

The Center had singled out a Charles Schwab & Co. ad for a Wondermark “award” for unintelligible writing.


Clear Content: Every written word represents your university brand

I expect 99.9% of the public wouldn’t understand this information on a university website explaining (I think) that the owner of content on a website is responsible for that content. I bet you thought “assets” meant “money,” but this information comes from the IT unit. “Assets” means web content. To be fair, the intended audience likely is IT people, so perhaps the language is appropriate for them. Perhaps.


Why should you care about bad forms?

People from all income and education levels are intimidated by poorly designed and ill-conceived forms and notices. In many other projects that we’ve undertaken over the years — from simplifying bankruptcy forms to tax forms, school enrollment forms, credit card statements, insurance applications, and program-related forms — the findings are consistent. The organizations may be different, but the problems remain the same.