We recently sent an email to our members about an effort to develop international standards on plain language. The information below is a summary of that email, including what you can do now to support this effort. As we noted in the email, any efforts towards developing standards will not only have the potential to make our work in plain language easier, but may also provide more opportunities for those of us working in this area. Therefore, we can all benefit from the success of this effort.
About the Standards
The Center for Plain Language is a member of the International Plain Language Federation. The Federation was formed in 2007 and includes three organizations – the Center, Clarity, and the Plain Language Association International (PLAIN).
The Federation has been working on developing an international standard for plain-language documents for the past few years. In 2010, they published a paper exploring the development of plain language standards. In 2017, at the PLAIN conference in Graz, Austria, the Federation committed to taking the key steps outlined in the options paper, appointed Annetta Cheek, a founding member of the Center for Plain Language, as chair of the Federation, and formed a standards development committee. The Standards Committee’s members are Rosa Margarita Galán Vélez (Mexico), Anne-Marie Hasselrot (Sweden), Susan Kleimann and Karen Schriver (US), Lynda Harris, (NZ), Joh Kirby, Christopher Balmford (Chair) and Bede Sunter, (Australia), and Joanna Richardson (a British national based in Argentina).
Standards experts have told the committee that the best route is to get a standard accepted in one country and then to seek to have it adopted internationally. Each country that adopts the standards can modify them to meet that country’s specific needs.
The committee has decided to start the standards process in Australia, for a variety of reasons. Due to the close relationship between the countries, it is likely that the Australian standards will also be accepted in New Zealand. This initial process is expected to take until about late-2020. As soon as possible after that process finishes, the Federation hopes to have the standard adopted in other countries.
How You Can Help
One thing that the Federation needs for this effort to be successful is support from stakeholder organizations. Appropriate stakeholders include, representative organizations, government agencies, unions, research and academic bodies, and consumer groups. You can help by engaging stakeholders and asking them to provide a letter of support for these standards (see attached letter below).
Organizations in Australian or New Zealand are particularly helpful at this stage. If you are outside Australia and New Zealand but have connections with an organization in those countries − or with an organization in your country that has an equivalent body in Australia or New Zealand – the Federation would love to hear from you.
You can send information about your contacts to members of the Federation as follows:
- For contacts in New Zealand, email Lynda Harris at email@example.com;
- For contacts in Australia, email Christopher Balmford at firstname.lastname@example.org; and
- For contacts anywhere else, email Rosa Margarita Galán Vélez at Mgalan@itam.mx.
This is an exciting time for plain language supporters around the world. We will continue to share information about the standards development process and how you can help as that information becomes available.
Letter to a contact at a potential stakeholder
If you have questions about this initiative and the Center’s involvement, please email us at email@example.com.