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.
However, some PLAIN members knew we also needed a different type of organization that could include folks outside the government to help us spread the plain language message. We wanted the Center to include communicators from all walks of life, such as academics, consultants, healthcare organizations, and the business community.
So, in 2003, Annetta Cheek took the lead and applied to the Internal Revenue Service for 501(c)(3) status for the Center for Plain Language. IRS approved the application. The founders were Annetta, Ginny Redish, Susan Kleimann, Joe Kimble, Joanne Locke, John Strylowski and Melodee Mercer. Our first big accomplishment was to co-sponsor the 2005 PLAIN International conference in Washington, DC, where 300 people from 7 countries attended.
Our goal was – and still is — to help government agencies and businesses write so clearly that their intended audience understands what they are saying the first time they read or hear it.
Our mission is to champion clear communication so people and organizations can thrive.
Our vision is to create a culture of Clarity
Every audience–Every format–Every time
How has the Center made a difference?
- Advocating for the passage of the Plain Writing Act of 2010 (targeted at agencies that provide a benefit or service to citizens, such as SSA, IRS, Medicare, VA)
- Co-sponsoring and organizing two international conferences in Washington, DC.
- Keeping the value of plain language front-and-center in conversations about communication.
How can members and others get involved?
- Advocacy: Help us get plain language bills passed at the national and state levels.
- Demand to understand: Speak up about bad writing. Submit a document for a WTF award.
- Network: We connect companies and consultants.
- Join us: Come to our events and meet kindred souls
- Support: Show your support by becoming a member and get discounts for events
- Help us: Volunteer to help with a Center project, such as the ClearMark awards, the report card, or the website.