Winter 2018 Newsletter
Champion the clarity of your communications
Enter the nation’s premier plain language awards competition and celebration of clarity.
The gala celebration and announcement of awards will be Tuesday, May 8, 2018, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The Center for Plain Language champions clear communication so people and organizations can thrive. We support a culture of clarity for every audience, every format, every time.
This year, the Center for Plain Language celebrates the 8th Annual ClearMark Awards to honor the people who do the heavy lifting of making communications clear. We encourage entries in several categories, including:
- Before and afters
- Brochures – short and long
- Digital – apps, newsletters, websites
- Forms and applications
- Legal communication
- Letters and correspondence
- Posters and charts
In 2016, the Center expanded the awards to accept Spanish language entries to acknowledge the importance of plain language in any mode.
Previous winners of the coveted Grand ClearMark Award include the Social Security Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Blue Cross, UnitedHealthcare, and March of Dimes.
If you are proud of your work, submit it. We want the world to see good plain language. Enter your best plain language work before January 31!
Key dates and submission tips
After reading the article above you know that the ClearMarks set a high standard for clarity and simplicity in the documents created by North American companies, governments and organizations. But did you know that along with rewarding the best English and Spanish entries, we provide useful feedback to all submitters to help them rework and improve their content?
This year, we’ve made a few changes to our entry categories. For a full explanation of what changed and why, check out our Nominations Q&A Webinar
originally presented December 8th. If you know of someone producing excellent plain language English or Spanish content, encourage them to enter!
- Now — Submission period opened
- January 31 — Submission period closes
- March — Finalists notified
- May 8 — ClearMark Award ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Proclaim your support for plain language
Join a growing list of organizations sponsoring the ClearMark Awards
Since 2010, the ClearMark Awards have recognized the best in clear communications from across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors in North America. Our annual awards ceremony at the National Press Club garners significant media attention and brings together plain language supporters from around the country.
Showcase your commitment to plain language and promote clarity for all as a 2018 ClearMark Awards sponsor.
Choose your sponsorship level:
- Title Sponsor: $25,000
- Corporate Circle: Benefactor - $10,000
- Corporate Circle: Patron - $5,000
- Friends of Plain Language: Sustainer - $2,500
- Friends of Plain Language: Supporter - $1,000
- Friends of Plain Language: Contributor - $500
No matter your budget, we welcome and appreciate all sponsorship contributions.
Take your plain language content to the next level
Join us for a workshop with content strategy expert Kristina Halvorson on May 8, 2018 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.Afterwards, stroll down the hall to celebrate at the ClearMark Awards.
Who should attend: This intro workshop is ideal for people who are new to content strategy, or who are advocating for content strategy within their organizations.
What to expect:
- Learn about the fundamentals of content strategy and how to explain them to your stakeholders.
- Discover Kristina’s secrets to selling content strategy to clients or within your organization.
- Work hands-on with page tables, one of the best tools for creating website content.
Whether you’re diving in for the first time or just hoping to brush up on the basics, this introductory workshop will give you a solid grounding in the challenges and opportunities of content strategy. Kristina Halvorson is widely recognized as one of the most important voices in content strategy. She is the owner of Brain Traffic, a content strategy agency, and the author of Content Strategy for the Web.
Early-bird registration opens in February on the Center’s website. Center members will receive an email soon with more information.
Coast to coast – clear communication award season is here
The Institute for Healthcare Advancement’s 17th Annual Health Literacy Conference and Health Literacy Awards will take place May 9 - 11, 2018 at Hotel Irvine in Irvine, California.
IHA’s conference draws professionals from all over the world. This premier event offers something for everyone in the field of health and human services. Whether you work directly with the public or behind the scenes in patient education or research, at a small non-profit or a large corporation – the conference has something for you. This important event happens just once a year. Don’t wait, register now at www.iha4health.org and get the early bird rate.
Nominate your work for an IHA Health Literacy Award starting January 15th. Work to improve health literacy, including programs, research, published material, websites and more, can be submitted to any of these award categories:
- Innovative materials – Activities/programs that demonstrate innovative, workable, and effective solutions to limited health literacy.
- Published materials – Written materials that contribute to effective communication with those with limited health literacy. Includes websites.
- Research – Studies using well-defined methodologies that further illustrate the relationship of literacy skills to health outcomes, cost and disparities and/or present evidence of effective interventions.
- International – Recognizes efforts outside of the U.S. that empower people to better health through improved health literacy.
- Now – Conference registration open (with early bird rates)
- January 15 – award nomination period opens
- May 9-11 – Annual health literacy conference in Irvine, CA
Center founder Annetta Cheek wins international Plain Language Achievement Award
In late 2017, the Center celebrated a prestigious achievement by our founder and former Chair, Annetta Cheek. The Center’s international counterpart, Plain Language Association International (PLAIN), awarded Annetta the Christine Mowat Plain Language Achievement Award in September at its conference in Graz, Austria. The award honors a “significant contribution to advancing plain language at the local, regional, national, or international levels.”
Annetta’s efforts and leadership resulted in the passage of the Plain Writing Act of 2010, which requires U.S. federal agencies to communicate with the public in plain language. This law represents a major victory in winning support for clear communication from the federal government and has given plain language advocates at all levels of government a strong basis for promoting reader-centered communication.
Upon receiving the award, Annetta expressed her gratitude for PLAIN’s decision: “It’s an honor to be recognized with this award because I feel the plain language movement is so important, and being recognized by other plain language practitioners around the world is certainly gratifying.”
Since retiring from the Center’s board a few years ago, Annetta has continued her involvement as a plain language advocate. She volunteers as a grader for the Federal Report Card and lobbies for additional legislation to require plain language for government regulations. Center Chair, Susan Kleimann, praised Annetta’s accomplishments: “We at the Center are grateful for Annetta’s work and her legacy. More importantly, though countless readers in the public and private sectors may never have heard her name, they continue to benefit from clearly written health information, government guidance, and financial explanations (to name a few) because of Annetta’s leadership.”
We did something about it
Center issues swift response to list of banned words at the CDC
When the Washington Post reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received a list of forbidden words and phrases (along with a list of jargon-laden alternatives), the Center for Plain Language took a stand for clarity. Our press release explained why this action is bad for people and policy.
In a show of support for these efforts, the Center received donations totaling $2,905 from plain language advocates around the globe:
- Contributions from 19 individuals or on behalf of small businesses in 10 states and the District of Colombia.
- New memberships from 3 individuals in Pennsylvania, Texas, and South Africa.
Does the list of banned words at the CDC make you think “WTF?”
No! Not that WTF! We mean Work That Failed.
Nominations for WTF Awards are accepted year round because, as we recently saw, communication failures can happen anytime. The point is to have some fun and inspire organizations to do better next time.
Here’s how it works:
- Nominate a communication failure of any kind (document, image or link) for a WTF Award.
- The worst of the worst “win” WTF Awards and publicity at the Center’s annual ClearMark Awards banquet.
- In the spirit of encouraging good plain language behavior, all WTF Award nominees are invited to revise and resubmit for the chance to win a TurnAround Award.
Maria Mindlin started volunteering with the Center in 2014. She initially worked on short pieces that were light and entertaining for the Center’s blog. That's when, in her own words, “I found out I wasn't a naturally entertaining kind of person!”
Since then, Maria has taken on other roles for the Center. She believes that her biggest contribution was as lead category judge for the annual ClearMark Awards. She found the process fascinating and was impressed by the range of topics and approaches to plain language.
Maria’s passion is translating legalese into plain language – an area that remains challenging for many. She noted, “It takes time and experience to understand what the legalese means, but the investment is well worth it! I hope I can make a contribution to our community in this area. I would also like to see more rigor and uniformity in our approach to translation. The health fields and legal fields have approached plain language very differently. In general, it's fair to say the health field has been far more successful in persuading professionals to speak more plainly. But the legal field may be a step ahead in codifying an approach that leads to more people having access to information. It's wonderful to compare these two worlds, and take the best from each.”
Maria’s wish for plain language? “Wouldn't it be great if the community could raise money for a plain language Fellow whose job it would be to educate other plain language professionals so we could learn more from each other and codify and make accessible the knowledge and research we have available?”
She encourages professionals to donate to the Center and encourage their clients to do the same to support plain language efforts.
Andreas Baumert is writing a book on plain language for the German language with colleague Prof. Dr. Annette Verhein-Jarren (Switzerland) titled “Einfache Sprache” (German for “Plain Language”). It will be available sometime between February – March 2018. Dr. Baumert describes the book as a combination of theory and plain language recommendations, “The result of nearly 50 years in technical communication, training, consulting, and so on. We’ll do our best to make it great!”
Our “Member News” section features updates from Center members. Send a brief description for publication in our next newsletter toinfo@centerforplainlanguage.
Plain language around the globe
Plain Language Association International (PLAIN) conference update
Center Chair, Susan Kleimann, attended Plain Language Association International’s 11th International Conference in September 2017 in Graz, Austria, and returned both heartened by global progress and aware of the need to keep advocating for clarity at home. One presentation in particular – the International Public Sector Survey, produced by PLAIN and Portugal’s Claro – highlighted where we need to be focusing our efforts.
The survey examined progress toward adopting plain language in Portugal, New Zealand and the U.S. from three perspectives: the central government, public sector agencies, and public perception. Here are a few clues as to where we need to focus our efforts:
- Nearly 97 percent of survey respondents in the U.S. say it is extremely important (82 percent) or very important (14.8 percent) that government organizations communicate clearly with the public.
- U.S. respondents consider clear communication to be most importantin the following three areas:
- Tax and finance
- Social Security
- U.S. respondents consider communication to be least clear in the following three areas:
- Tax and finance
The PLAIN 2017 Conference Programme Austria (pdf) contains links to the presentations. Please note: Copyright of the presentations belongs to their respective authors.
Coming soon …
Look for the Center for Plain Language Annual Report in March 2018.
Want to get involved with the Center?
We’re looking for people to fund raise, to review books, to blog, and to oversee the editing of books. If those aren’t your cup of tea, we have more opportunities. Send an email to info@centerforplainlanguage.