When plain language first became mainstream, in English-speaking nations and countries such as Sweden, it was often called plain English. That was in the 90s. Today, plain language is practiced in many countries, in many languages. So, how do you manage a movement that covers so many countries, organizations, audiences and topics? You set a standard.
"This is such exciting progress because a standard gives us all a point of truth - a point of agreement. At the moment, while plain language professionals are very much in agreement as to our work generally - what it is, why it's needed, how it works - there's still so much room for interpretation. An international standard would mean both we (as experts) and others (wanting to apply the principles of plain language) will all have a common agreement as a starting point. It also gives our work weight. I'm thrilled!"
Shelly Davies, shellydavies.co.nz plain language advocate, trainer, practitioner, and 'badass keynote speaker'
The old methods of a readability test, a grade level and a quick edit have evolved into new practices. Thanks to leaders in the field carrying out research, tracking progress and sharing findings, the plain language process has matured. It now integrates design and usability. Technology has had a major influence. The process, much like marketing, includes a clear plan, audience assessment, clear writing and editing to facilitate understanding, navigation and action; design for accessibility; and reader or user testing. Users drive successful projects. They are involved throughout. And, standards will help ensure we are achieving plain language in a systematic way that meets their needs.
Skill development is challenging organizations as the effects of technology, the environment and economics keep changing. Conferences, courses and collaborations have helped make plain language more mainstream. However, as a trainer and consultant, I am often asked by clients and students for a recognized plain language 'stamp'. The proposed standard is looking at training as well as application. Soon we will be starting with and sharing a recognized definition and guidelines to ensure we are providing consistent quality. That's what standards do.