The International Adult Literacy Survey Results
In 1990, Statistics Canada released the results of the Survey of Literacy Skills Used in Daily Activities (LSUDA), a 1989 Canada-wide survey of the reading skills of adults. In 1992, the then Ontario Ministry of Education reported on the LSUDA results for Ontario (Stan Jones, Survey of Adult Literacy in Ontario).
Shortly after the release of the LSUDA results in Canada and those of the National Adult Literacy Survey in the United States, interest in a comparative international study of adult literacy began to grow. In December 1995, the first results of the 1994 survey of adult literacy in seven countries, the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS), were reported in Literacy, Economy and Society, a joint publication of Statistics Canada and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In September 1996, Statistics Canada released Reading the Future: A Portrait of Literacy in Canada, a report on the national data collected in IALS.
To measure literacy in IALS, respondents answered a set of test questions designed to measure adult reading skills as well as background questions about their education, work experience and literacy practices.
Ontario participated in the survey in order to gain key data to inform policy development and to focus its literacy programming. The present report covers in detail the IALS results for Ontario. It updates and supplements the previous report, Survey of Adult Literacy in Ontario. It is organized much as the previous report with a table, graph and commentary for each of the major literacy relationships. Throughout the text, shaded boxes provide background information. Usually the tables provide results for three scales -- prose, document and quantitative -- but the graphs are used to point to particularly interesting results in part of the data.
Authors: Poppy Quintal
Poppy gave a brief history of how and why Simplified English (SE) was developed, and an overview of the SE rules for vocabulary and grammatical style. A before-and-after analysis of cautions and warnings showed the benefits of SE to an industry in which quick and clear understanding of maintenance procedures is a vital safety consideration.
Michel presented a new tool called “Assessing the Complexity of Literacy Tasks.” It is designed to help document designers understand the ability levels of readers as defined in the International Adult Literacy Survey. This complexity-rating tool, based on the work of Irwin Kirsh and Peter Mosenthal, can help information designers ensure that the level of complexity of public information matches the literacy level of the target readers. It complements plain language techniques and can deal with some of the shortfalls of readability formulas based on school grade levels.
Some thoughts for the PLAIN conference, Toronto 2002
Authors: Peter Butt
In a panel discussion chaired by Joseph Kimble, Brian Hunt and Peter Butt argued the assumptions behind the use of plain legal language. Brian posed the questions: Is there really a demand for plain language legislation? Would plain language legislation function as intended? Peter presented evidence from recent research supporting the claim that plain language benefits legal documents and statutes.
Authors: Sally McBeth
Although we often think of George Orwell's classic essay on the politics of language as the starting place for the plain language movement, we are part of a tradition of advocacy for grace, simplicity, and equity in communication that goes back to Chaucer and beyond him, to the hybrid beginnings of the English language. Sally's short historical tour honoured the work of the plain language pioneers in our midst.
Authors: Deirdre Viviers
South Africa has 27 spoken and 11 official languages, and no uniform level of proficiency in English. Yet education, access to information and transparency are basic human rights, according to the new constitution. Plain language therefore plays a vital role in attaining these goals. Because plain language skills are also necessary for successful participation in the business community, the School of Accountancy at the University of the Witwatersrand developed a Business Communications course. Deirdre described the rationale for and design of the course, with a focus on the centrality of plain language.
Authors: Benjamin Levin
In May 2008, the Canadian Council on Learning (CCL) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) co-sponsored a symposium on knowledge mobilization with the goal of stimulating discussion about a variety of questions related to that concept.
The symposium was divided into four main themes: knowing knowledge mobilization; practising knowledge mobilization; enhancing knowledge mobilization; and researching knowledge mobilization.
Symposium participants were united in their belief that knowledge mobilization can play a significant role in bridging the gap between research producers and research consumers. This role is likely to grow in importance as the appetite for evidence-based and research-informed practice and decision-making continues to grow.
At the same time, the authors note, knowledge mobilization organizations and practitioners must compete for attention in highly information-rich societies; establish their credibility; and adapt to the uneven and unpredictable capacity of decision-makers to understand, consume, and conduct research.
The report also contains suggestions for action that participants felt would help further the knowledge mobilization agenda in Canada.
Authors: Jamie Lamothe
The goal of Public Health is to promote and protect health and prevent disease. Jamie explained how, at Halton, clear language is one component of a larger “Equal Access Strategy” that aims to remove barriers to public health services. Participants who attended this presentation learned about the energy needed to champion a clear language strategy in a dynamic, multidisciplinary environment; and the rewards that accrue to an organization embracing change.
Authors: Danna Yuhas
If you attend breakfast meetings, luncheons, trade shows, or social gatherings, you need to have a ready-made answer to the question “What do you do?” For plain language professionals, it's not always easy to come up with a snappy answer. At the end of this interactive workshop, participants could develop a 30-second commercial that clearly described what their company does and how their products or services can benefit customers.
Authors: Nick Horn
One of the seminal points in the development of plain statutory language is the change from the imperative “shall” to “must.” Although apparently small, this has proved to be a key marker of the adoption of plain language legislation. Nick discussed how this shift helps us understand what is different about the way legislative language functions, and argued that such an understanding is necessary if drafters are to continue to pursue effectiveness and clarity.