Are you, your colleagues, or your clients still unclear about just what plain language is and how to explain it? I still get asked, and expect I always will. It's a process, and that takes a strategic approach to explaining. The basic answer is next.
Plain language is a process of creating information that meets the audience's needs to:
How to show the importance of audience
Audience is the heart and soul of plain language. They determine direction. They should guide you with feedback throughout the process. Their satisfaction should be your ultimate goal. I always start a project by working with my client to get a clear picture of the audience. We create a persona—a picture (yes we draw)—of who we are talking to, connecting with, It's important to make sure everyone involved in plain language projects understands the role your audience plays and supports the processes for involving them.
Joel Solomon, Amazon content strategist, explains in his Gathercontent.com video Four Principles of Creating Helpful Content, “You answer the question asked." That is where the plain language writing plan begins.
How to write in plain language
So, you have a general description of plain language—the 'what'. You have committed to putting your audience first— the 'who'. But, how do you write in plain language?
Yes plain language is a process that involves a number of steps to complete. But, writing clearly and concisely are a good places to start. I recommend building a file of your before and after examples to help you sell others on the benefits of investing time in the true plain language process. Let them see the benefits with familiar information. This show and tell will help you clearly explain how plain language writing can better connect with your audience and help achieve the key plain language goals.
Here is Iain Broome's Gathercontent.com video Five plain English tips for writing better everything to help you form a strong base for beginning to write in plain language.
You now have the basics to get started. If you want to learn more, check out the PlainLanguageAcademy.com series of online courses, including Plain Language Basics, Plain Language Writing and Editing, Audience Awareness and Plain Language Design. All are open for registration. More courses are coming.
Kate Harrison Whiteside has over 25 years experience in plain language, writing/editing, training and consulting.