Speaking (or writing) Plainly
Cheryl Lovstrom, Community Learning Network
- Long, difficult passages can be very frustrating to read for those with lower reading skills.
- Lower reading skills may mean some parts of the message get skipped or misunderstood.
- Learners may give up or stop coming to class.
- Learners may not sign up for learning opportunities because they can’t easily read or find all of the information about a class.
- It reduces mistakes because the reader can understand the message the first time they read it.
- It saves time because the reader can follow instructions without making mistakes.
- It saves money because tasks are completed the first time without mistakes.
- Everyone likes plain language. Would you rather read a 10 page document on the virtues of plain language or a 2 page summary that’s actually written in plain language?
- Write for your audience. Use language they understand. If you’re writing for learners, use language they use daily (in CALP that’s an average of a grade 6 level). If you’re writing for your funder, use their language (think CALP Guidelines).
- Include the difficult words if the reader needs to know them, but be sure to explain them with a plain language definition.
- Use jargon only if the reader will need to know what it is. Again, explain with a plain language definition.
- Use lots of white space. In other words, leave good margins around the printed material and make the font large enough to read easily.
- On websites, avoid clutter and think about “how many clicks” it takes to get to information on your site.
You’re in luck! Registration is open now on the CALP portal:
- Opening Doors to Community: https://calp.ca/events/opening-doors-to-community-2023-04-03.htm
- Plain Language for Your CALP: https://calp.ca/events/plain-language-for-your-calp-2023-04-25.htm
Check out these resources:
- Creating Instructional Materials Using Plain Language e-Learning: https://calp.ca/e-learning/creating-instructional-materials-using-plain-language.htm
- Plain language: Clear and Simple (Government of Canada): https://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/9.838244/publication.html
- Plain Train (online training based on Plain Language: Clear and Simple): https://www.lisibilite.net/PlainTrain/index.htm
In 1991, Alberta was the first province in Canada to adopt a plain language law. That law is the Financial Consumers Act. The law says some consumer contracts must be written in “clear and easily understandable language." (Plain Language: Clear and Simple – Trainers’ Guide)
This blog is written at a grade 6.3 level, which is readable by a fairly wide audience. Not bad, but I bet you can do better!
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