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.
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We have all done it. Gone for a medical or dental test or procedure. Not looking forward to it, a bit nervous about it. And then someone on the staff gives you some papers to sign authorizing the procedure. Often they simply say, “Sign here,” and seem puzzled when you take the time to read it.
According to the recent Edelman Trust Barometer (2013 Annual Global Study: Financial Services Industry Findings), U.S. trust in financial institutions is at a low of 46%. In other words, 54% of Americans do not trust financial institutions. Much of that mistrust is likely a result of the financial, worldwide crisis of the past seven years. …
Getting an organization to start using plain language shouldn’t be all that hard, should it?
Simply get the folks at the top to buy-in, train all the writers, and after a bit of learning curve, all new and revised documents should start to be clear and concise.
Well, maybe not.
Seems one critical piece is missing in that rosy scenario – the reviewers.