Toolkit for starting plain language in your organization
Start a plain language initiative in your organization: A step-by-step approach
Dana Howard Botka
Manager of Customer Communications, WA Dept of Labor & Industries
First Plain Talk Coordinator, Office of the Governor, Washington State
As the world rapidly becomes more crowded, complex, and interconnected than we ever imagined, the plain language movement is taking off.
- Businesses know that they increase their market share when customers are not confused or frustrated.
- Public agencies know they save money and serve people better when citizens understand.
- Translators know they can do their job properly when language isn’t bogged down by “legalese” or bureaucratic jargon.
More and more agencies and businesses are starting plain language initiatives. They often start with training so their employees learn the techniques of writing and designing clear documents and web pages. That’s a good start, but it’s not enough.
The bigger challenge follows: making plain language move forward in the real world of their organization.
After leading perhaps 60-70 large and small plain language projects over the past nine years, I have found that the “writing piece” is an amazingly small slice of the undertaking.
If you are a new plain language project manager, here are 10 steps to help you navigate the managerial obstacles that may lie before you:
- Step 1: Present your proposal as a solution to a business problem your managers already want to solve.
- Step 2: Start with a simple project.
- Step 3: Find a champion who is a respected in your workplace. Get that person to support your project.
- Step 4: Get the right mix of people involved.
- Step 5: Get help.
- Step 6: Build trust with your team members and subject-matter experts.
- Step 7: Negotiate throughout the writing process.
- Step 8: Conduct usability tests with typical customers. You will need a reality check.
- Step 9: Decide upfront how you will measure the success of your project, and get benchmarks right away.
- Step 10: Market the project.