Launching a plain language initiative in most organizations means a major shift in policies, procedures and culture. And, like any shift, it needs a strong coach, backed by a committed team, and fans. It is best to start out in the little leagues and work your way up to the majors. With International Plain Language Day Oct 13 just over two weeks away - why not use it to get you started.
Training is a big part of developing any skill. See if you can get a plain language training session in your organization. PLAIN (Plain Language Association INternational) has a members database to help you find an expert in your area. If one isn't nearby, many are ready to be brought in by video conferencing technology. It could be the way to get launched.
The best teams have the best coaches. If you don't see yourself in the role of plain language champion - find one. They should have some knowledge of plain language, be respected, work well as a leader, have good project management skills - and believe in plain language. If you need help getting them on track - watch the IPLDay promo videos on YouTube. Then come back to the IPLDay channels on YouTube and SlideShare on IPLDay Oct 13 for more presentations. You could use these as part of your recruitment campaign to get a cross-representation of members on your team.
Once your team is set up and has had some training - pick a project. Keep it simple to start. A form. A letter. A company-wide document. It is worth investing in a trainer - a plain language professional - to walk you through the first challenge. Think of it as training the trainer. You can learn a lot - and with expert guidance - achieve success. It's a win-win for everyone.
It's a big step and a big commitment - but it can net big results. Plain language saves time and money - and leads to happy clients. It can make your organization a winner - move you to the top of the standings - make you stand out fHere are some helpful links. Let us know how it goes.
NWT Literacy Putting Plain Language into Practice
Plain or clear communications is often focused on the content - but design plays a huge part. In London this week, at the Design Festival, Siegal + Gale hosted a discussion on the power of simple designs.
The Wallace and Gromit creative director, a University of Reading professor, a London tailor and British Library entrepreneur-in-residence all gave their reasons for backing simplicity in design.
So, what does this mean for the plain language communicator on the street?
Let clear design help you stand out.
Siegal + Gale's president of EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) Philip Davies called simplicity 'a powerful tool' that gives organizations the competitive edge.
The panel discussed simplicity vs simplistic - a debate that echoes plain language vs clear communications discussions that took place at the PLAIN conference in Stockholm in 2011. Watch the video.
The next time you do a project, find a designer with a plain language or clear design portfolio. They exist. My experience with them in print and on website projects has been enlightening.
Watch the International Plain Language Day Oct 13 video and find or start a local celebration event.
Kate Harrison Whiteside has over 25 years experience in plain language, writing/editing, training and consulting.