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: 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.
Authors: Philippe Hallée
Traditionally, a statute is a message of the sovereign to the people (at least in Canada!). The accent is not on communicating the information it contains. Philippe described a prototype project of Justice Canada to develop a more accessible act. If this prototype is approved by Parliament, all federal legislation in Canada would be drafted using some or all of the features developed for the Employment Insurance Act. Philippe presented those features at this session and talked about the evolution of a new writing culture for legal drafters.
Authors: Sana Reynolds
Sana examined the impact of slang on international business communication, offering examples of current business slang and possible misinterpretations. Her presentation included a historical perspective and a discussion of how slang terms arise, and provided techniques to decipher many current slang expressions.