On Sept. 17 – 20, 2015, our sister organization, the Plain Language Association International (PLAIN), held its 10th conference, co-hosted by Ireland’s National Adult Literacy Agency. Practitioners from around the world gathered in Dublin at the Dublin Castle to discuss and learn about plain language principles.
Speakers shared their expertise on an array of topics that gave us new insights into writing and designing with clarity. Here are some highlights from this year’s PLAIN conference:
- Greg Moriarty on applying tone: Greg offered a good reminder that clarity is not just about the words. He shared a tone breakdown featuring 10 elements on the various ways we build tone in documents, including design (font choices, lines, text density, page layout and graphics) and language (pronouns, word order, conversation features, reading ease and efficiency).We appreciated the Karen Schriver quote he shared: “Research suggests it takes only 50 milliseconds to form an impression of content, and reading is not required.”
- David Berman on designing for accessibility: David offered a highly engaging and convincing argument for the interdependency between plain language and accessibility in website design. And the link is all about inclusiveness. “For everyone to be included, it isn’t just a good idea — it’s a human rights issue. …Everyone needs accessible websites — sometimes!”
- Deborah Bosley on communicating with empathy: Deborah offered great points on how emotion will change behavior long before logic and information will. Not only is her argument very true, we believe it’s imperative to remember this communication feature, especially in a health education context. “We need to know our audience and feel our audience.”
- David Marsh on using style guides to create a plain language culture: David reminded us that style guides aren’t just reference books. They are strategic communication tools that help us create content that’s clear, coherent, and consistent — which coalesce into building credibility. Some of us had flashbacks to our press office and newsroom days…
- Dominique Joseph and Heather Walsh on training: Dominique and Heather gave a lively, interactive discussion where many audience members contributed their tips and tricks for improving plain language training. We especially feel that learning what works in different industries and cultures was eye-opening.
- Neil James and Susan Kleimann on creating a universal model for evaluating plain language: With plain language practitioners working across the globe, uniting standards of excellence can create a more credible, consistent environment. Neil and Susan’s suggested model gave us an effective tool to begin working from as we further unite our plain language efforts worldwide.
In all, with more than 250 attendees from 18 countries gathered together, PLAIN 2015 offered another wonderful opportunity for learning, sharing, and connecting. And we were further delighted with the great US presence at the conference — 20 presenters and attendees, including the following people:
Center for Plain Language Board Members
- Karen Baker (Vice Chair)
- Deborah Bosley
- Annetta Cheek (former Chair)
- Julie Clement (Treasurer)
- Susan Kleimann (Chair)
- Joanne Locke
- Meghan Codd Walker
- Chris Bransfield
- Kathryn Catania
- Josiah Fisk
- Jana Goldman
- Joe Kimble
- Robert Linsky
- Deanna Lorianni
- Maria Mindlin
- Amy Parker
- Matthew Phillion
- Nad Rosenberg
- Elizabeth Rosenzweig
- Katherine Spivey
- Miriam Vincent
A look ahead – Clarity Conference 2016
The next international conference is in 2016, hosted by Clarity. We’re already excited for another engaging event. As soon as the call for papers comes out, we’ll be sure to keep you posted. Let’s try to get even more Americans attending!
About the authors
The following authors contributed to this blog: Karen Baker, Susan Kleimann, Joanne Locke, Deanna Lorianni, and Meghan Codd Walker.