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.
I’ll never forget my first ClearMark Awards.
My business partner, Deanna, and I had travelled to D.C. to attend the 2012 Clarity Conference and decided to stay for the Awards. As writers and clarity experts, we looked forward to learning more and seeing the best new work coming out of the plain language world. But after attending countless conferences and awards ceremonies, I had modest expectations.
On Sept. 17 – 20, 2015, our sister organization, the Plain Language Association International (PLAIN), held its 10th conference, co-hosted by Ireland’s National Adult Literacy Agency. Practitioners from around the world gathered in Dublin at the Dublin Castle to discuss and learn about plain language principles.
Speakers shared their expertise on an array of topics that gave us new insights into writing and designing with clarity.
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.
Early this summer, TIME.com asked the Center for Plain Language to evaluate some online privacy notices, using the types of assessment we use for our ClearMark awards and our Federal Plain Language Report Card. I took the lead on the project and learned some great lessons along the way. TIME.com published the article in August.