Welcome Back! Now that you understand Plain Language writing, what’s next?
Why use Plain Language?
After over 30 years of work in public sector organizations, I had mastered government writing. I wrote in the passive voice and rarely used 1st and 2nd person pronouns. I promoted government jargon and spouted (and created) many acronyms. I was part of a system and I enjoyed the benefits of being inside the system.
It was only when I needed to understand other systems - the health system and the Veterans Affairs system - that I began to understand how our systems’ language create barriers. Our family member couldn’t access a benefit because of our poor health literacy and the VA system language.
In my work, I see many examples of how language in laws and regulations result in confusion, or worse, in enabling unintended interpretations and program applications.
What can we do to be more inclusive in our writing?
We can remove some of the common barriers to clear communication by demonstrating clear writing and pushing others to review materials, forms, and processes for clear writing.
We can recognize that literacy levels vary in our population and, literacy levels can diminish in times of poor health, stress and crisis.
We can increase awareness and training and develop communication standards where simple, clear information and instructions are a requirement.
We can be accountable to ensure problems caused by unclear writing, including errors, delays and cost increases, are identified and addressed instead of allowed to continue.
We can take a risk and ask questions when we read materials that are unclear.
We can learn from and build on the successes of the plain language experts who started this work over 45 years ago. We can support the work of our pioneers in the Plain Language writing field and keep pushing for change.
We can speak up!