Listen & Watch
This TED Talk from February 2010 can still inspire us.
Alan Siegel, a branding expert and one of the leading authorities on business communication, calls for the use of plain English to create documents that we can all understand. In this video, he present a clear argument for the need to “make clarity, simplicity and transparency a national priority.”
Watch on TED Talks
The first review since agencies were required to create plans for cutting the “bureaucrat-ese” from their dealings with the public found mixed results at many agencies. The Center for Plain Language, a group that advocates for clear writing in government documents, released a scorecard this week marking agency progress meeting requirements under the 2010 Plain Writing Act.
May 9, 2012
Altogether, that’s 60 percent of voters in the state who don’t understand Amendment One.
“That’s not a huge surprise,” says Annetta Cheek, Chair of the Center for Plain Language, a non-profit that works to make government communicate more clearly with citizens. “I’m actually surprised 40 percent might have understood it.”
Cheek said the vast majority of legislation goes misunderstood by the voting public. “Frankly, every time I have to vote on something locally, it’s very hard to understand what I’m voting on.”
April 27, 2012
Hear the broadcast of Dear Government: Make Yourself Plain (5:58)
Government writing is so obtuse, so bloated with legalese that the government decided to police itself with the Plain Writing Act of 2010. That act says that the Executive Branch should, you know, write more clearly. Host Bob Garfield speaks with former government employee Dr. Annetta Cheek who began advocating for clearer government writing after seeing a single, beautifully clear regulation.
BBC Watchdog: Excel Parking Services Ltd
April 20, 2012
Martin Cutts, the research director of the Plain Language Commission takes on a car parking lot when he was charged for parking. He won a case based on how hard it was to read the signs and understand that the parking lot was not free. This BBC news story investigates.
Is the lettering on the sign large enough to meet standards for clarity?
- Read Martin’s report: Phoney fines and dodgy signs take drivers for a ride with photos of the signs and an analysis of the British Parking Authority standards.
- Watch the BBC report on YouTube: BBC Watchdog: Excel Parking Services Ltd
Washington Post, April 8, 2012
Center for Plain Language chair Annetta Cheek spoke with reporter Lisa Rein about progress in implementing the Plain Writing Act.
“Federal agencies must report their progress this week in complying with the Plain Writing Act, a new decree that government officials communicate more conversationally with the public.
Speaking plainly, they ain’t there yet.
The introduction to this fun video of popular songs with unplain lyrics says, using “long, fancy words designed to show off your intelligence and vocabulary are all very well, but they aren’t always the best words.”
In this short, playful video Terin Izil explains why simple, punchy language is often the clearest way to convey a message. This video is from TEDEducation, launching a series on Playing with Language. Watch on YouTube.
The Storyteller’s Art in the Science of Psychology
Carol Tarvis at the
20th Association for Psychological Science Convention
In a talk in honor of Elliot Aronson, Carol Tavris talks about editing his articles as Psychology Today, and how well he was able to explain psychological concepts in plain language. Tavris and Aaronson are the authors of Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me).
Broadcast March 9, 2012
“Why are agreements and contracts getting longer?
One reason: The same reason some coffee shop chains put CAUTION: VERY HOT on their foam coffee cups.
Companies are saying they’re required, by law, to include more and more information each day. Things like privacy policies. Warnings for a phone, gadget, or appliance on how you should and shouldn’t use it.
Because of this, the Center for Plain Language is calling on government agencies and businesses to make agreements understandable and readable. Each year it puts out a list of the most confusing documents out there, from health insurance forms to software agreements and car seat installations.
“Nobody’s going to read that and understand it without spending days or weeks trying to decipher it,” said the Center’s Henry Maury.
A company called Transparency Labs has done a study, and found less than 1 in 10,000 Americans actually reads the fine print, and it costs the average household up to $3,000 a year in fees and charges.”
By Bill Tomison with Susan Hogan
In this podcast, Annetta Cheek talks with Helen Osborne about:
- Plain language: What it is and why it is needed for all types of documents.
- Plain language legislation: How government communications affect everyone.
- Practical ways to help overcome a “culture of complex communication.”