Making public information clear How we knew we needed a plain language program Way back in 1998, Vice President Gore signed a memo setting up expectations that information from the Federal government would be easy for the public to understand. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, had tried a few writing programs in the past, but none lasted more than a year or so. While some of our information was written for scientists and lawyers, much was also of great interest to the public. We received many letters and phone calls from people asking for information because what
We know that sinking feeling when we read a confusing email or business letter. We scan the wall of words and ask ourselves, ‘why should I care, what does this mean to me, and what am I supposed to do with this information?’
Making information less complex and more concise How we knew we needed a plain language program In 2010, most of our day-to-day communications with county residents were lengthy, overly complex, and often filled with legal jargon. In addition, each county department had their own style and voice. Surveys of residents showed they were often confused and frustrated by the information they received from us. In addition, front-line staff were asking for help with communications. We had a team of nearly 100 people assigned to maintain the county website, and none of them had received training on how to write effective
We previously covered how plain language supports science communication, and today we will focus on how plain language advances technical communication. We will answer the top three questions from technical experts and management leaders, and we will point you in the right direction for ways to apply plain language elements to your next project.
Since 2018 we have introduced a lot of changes to make our legal process more accessible. Building a culture of plain language was one of them. It cost us very little, but has made a big difference in how ordinary people use our service. In terms of cost versus benefit, it has been a massive bargain.
In 2006, I was working as a writer-editor in the regulatory shop of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency responsible for providing legal immigration benefits and services. Any one of our regulations could affect thousands to millions of people, many of whom didn’t speak English as a first language. So we had to get the language right.
2020 was an unusual and challenging year in the history of the ClearMarks. Everyone’s focus was on creating new plain language materials to meet pressing needs—and, in turn, to celebrate those materials and their important impact on their audiences – we opened a separate COVID-19 category.
The Plain Writing Act is turning 10 years old on October 13, 2020. The Act gave U.S. federal employees the legal oomph to turn the stereotype that government writing is overly complicated, stilted, and obtuse on its head. No longer was plain language just a good idea that could easily be tossed aside for lack of time or tacked on the end of a project as if it were synonymous with proofreading.
ClearMark judge Geraldine Hynes, PhD, is a communication consultant and executive coach for business, government, and nonprofit organizations. Her award-winning research has been published in scholarly journals and books in several countries and languages.
Don’t miss the Access for All conference October event! This conference marks the first time Clarity International, the Center for Plain Language, and Plain Language Association International (PLAIN) have joined together to celebrate clear communication. It is the first virtual plain language conference. Come join us as we discuss how we have and can use plain language to break down all sorts of barriers! Join Us Access for All: Plain Language is a Civil Right, is a virtual conference dedicated to using plain language to break down barriers in society. Join us as we explore five areas where plain
Together with our partners, Clarity and Plain International, we are hosting the Access for All: Plain Language is a Civil Right International Conference virtual event October 13-15, 2020. We will announce the winners of our ClearMark Awards during this event. Access for All: Plain Language is a Civil Right, is a conference dedicated to using plain language to break down barriers in society. The conference explores five arenas where plain language can and has improved Access for All. Stories of the Conference We will experience the conference through five stories. Delve into the stories of the conference to see how
We are pleased to announce our newest Board member, Kathryn Catania. Kathryn is a champion of providing information that is easy to find, understand, and use. She has more than 15 years’ experience promoting plain language in government writing.