Better legal information
Entering the world of plain language
I’m fully convinced of the value of making legal, health, and other forms of public information as clear and easy to understand as possible.
But even after doing this work for over 20 years, I still need to stay up to date and connected to the latest thinking and practices.
Through this blog post, I want to share with you some of the ways I stay connected. And invite you to get more involved in the plain language world.
Join an association (and see first hand, how important this work is)
There are many benefits to joining one or both of the groups listed below. They both host highly regarded conferences and, by joining, you can connect with others committed to clear communication. Their membership rates are very reasonable.
Go onto Twitter (for reasons that don’t involve celebrity news or US politics)
Believe it or not, one of my main sources for what’s current in the plain language world is Twitter.
Below are a few of my favourite sources and you’ll find lots more by doing a Twitter search on #plainlanguage:
- Plain Language Association International (PLAIN)
- Joseph Kimble
- Christopher Trudeau
- health literacy lawyer, plain language advocate, and law professor at Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School
- author of The Public Speaks: An Empirical Study of Legal Communication and the soon-to-be-released follow-up, which is expanded to survey an international audience
Join a discussion group (and follow what's happening all over the world)
There are two active LinkedIn discussion groups that are well worth taking a look at. To ask to join, you have to be a LinkedIn member.
Check out some blogs and newsletters (with an international flavour)
- The Plain Language Commission in the UK has a website packed with useful information and free resources, including a guide to communicating with older people.
- The Center for Plain Language in the US sponsors the annual ClearMark Awards and has an interesting and active blog about plain language.
- Write Clearly: Thoughts on plain English is a blog from New Zealand that’s a great source of plain language tips and news. You can sign up to get the posts by email.
Sign up for an online course (if you’re really serious)
Simon Fraser University has a new online, part-time certificate program of plain language courses. This is the only plain language program available in Canada.
To find out more, you can sign up for a free info session in March 2017.
Take a look at some resources from CLEO (we really hope you’ll check these out)
Kim McCutcheon has been a plain language editor at CLEO for the past 16 years. She just finished a 3-year term on the board of the Plain Language Association International, serving as the website manager and co-chair of the communications committee. She’s also a member of Clarity and Editors Canada. Kim was the lead writer and editor on CLEO’s Better Legal Information Handbook. You’ll find her on Twitter at @kim_mccutcheon.