I recently watched a video where a patient defined “hypertension” as “when you’re not able to sit still.” It made me sad—and reminded me (again) why plain language, or clear communication, truly matters.
Since our founding in 1975, Healthwise has been committed to producing health information that people can understand. That was years before plain language became a discipline, a movement even, and the worthy focus of conferences, organizations and workshops. Now there’s a new book on the topic, Plain Language and Ethical Action, by Boise State University technical communications professor Russell Willerton.
When you search for something on the web, do you search for clinical terms and technology? Or do you think about a problem you need solved?
If you’re like most people, you think about your problems in plain language.
You’re more likely to search for “Do I have poison ivy?” than “Have I suffered exposure to toxicodendron radicans?”
That’s why it’s important to keep natural, everyday questions in mind when you’re creating content for the web.
Once a month, I take my daughters, 9 and 13, to get donuts at Yum-Yums on a Friday night. We pick a dozen favorites and then go home to watch a movie while we each enjoy one donut as our treat. (They’re huge!) Then I put my girls to bed. And they know they can have a donut for breakfast the next morning.
It’s March Grammar Madness at Healthwise. We’re mad about clear communication—and isn’t that the primary purpose of grammar?
So, just like the hoops fans who get into the college basketball spirit, we celebrated National Grammar Day (March 4) with a bracket. It’s all about sustaining the commitment to plain language—and scoring points with employees.
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.