Building a plain language culture in the US Government

Posted on Jan 28, 2015

I’ve spent the last few months working on the 2014 Federal Plain Language Report Card. The Report Card evaluates whether U.S. Federal Departments comply with the Plain Writing Act of 2010. This year we also analyzed writing samples against best practices for both writing and information design.

Writing for dollars

Posted on Jan 21, 2015

I work at a science-based regulatory agency. It can be tough to sell plain language to people who have graduate degrees in an area that I’m not a specialist in. The fact that I’m working with government scientists can make the pitch even harder. I’ve got two types of jargon and socialization to break through.

But one of the best things about working with scientists is that they trust expertise and evidence. If you give them evidence to prove your point, they tend to listen.

Filling the empathy gap: Learning to be clear in belgium

Posted on Jan 14, 2015

Each year, hundreds of passionate plain-language professionals from all over the world converge on a cool city to share the latest findings and advancements in our field. Vancouver, D.C., Lisbon, Sydney. You get the gist.

This November, a number of Center for Plain Language members and leaders traveled to Antwerp and Brussels for a joint conference hosted by IC Clear and Clarity.

Make your prose lean in 2015

Posted on Jan 5, 2015

At the start of a new year, like many of us, I groan with the post-holiday feeling of having eaten more chocolate and cheese—and exercised less—than I should. I feel the burden, real or imagined, of excess calories slowing me down. And now that the parties are over, the holiday candles back in boxes, the red and green sweaters safely stowed, I’m eager to refocus and trim down, leaner and sleeker than the year before.

Teaching Plain Language: 5 Challenges

Posted on Dec 17, 2014

One of my professional roles is to teach legal writing. And in spite of what you might think, most of us who teach legal writing try to teach law students to use plain language (to some degree or another). But term after term, I’m dismayed at the final assignments’ lack of plain language. So what’s standing in the way? I’ve identified 5 obstacles here, although I’m sure there are others. Whether you’re a plain-language coach, some other kind of teacher, or someone who’s just trying to get people to climb on the plain-language train, maybe some of the suggestions here will help. Although some of them focus on legal writing, I’m sure you can draw analogies to your own field.