Plain Language– What is it?

January 30, 2012 at 1:09 am 6 comments

A year ago, I taught Introduction to Professional Writing and Presentations to students at Conestoga College. One of the topics we covered was plain language. It’s a topic that comes up from time to time in our editors’ association online discussions. I’ve also discussed this matter with my creative writing class at the Rockway Centre.

What is plain language?  It is, in short, writing in ordinary words so that our audience understands the message.  Writing without jargon, without wordiness, and using too many words to say something that can be said in fewer. Writing so our message is accessible to as many people as possible. Legal language comes to mind, as does an insurance policy or corporate policies. Plain Language is considered important by a number of countries and provinces around the world. See a list here.

About the time I was teaching that class, a member of the Editors’ Association of Canada posted a link on our  listserv with a video.  E-Write’s  Leslie O’Flahavan and Marilynne Rudick wrote their December 30th blog post (2010) on Plain Language. In that December post is a link to a video showing a Brussels-based choir known as the Hot Air Vocal Ensemble. The choir sings about the merits of plain language.

Listen to the ensemble here.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Cheryl  |  January 30, 2012 at 1:41 am

    For teaching plain language courses, you might want to take a look at this manual: http://plainlanguageinplainenglish.com

    Reply
    • 2. storygal  |  January 30, 2012 at 3:09 am

      Thank you, Cheryl. I have been on your site before. I’m going to refer my students to this site for more information.

      Carolyn

      Reply
  • 3. Debra Isabel Huron  |  January 30, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Another sector where plain language is making a difference is health. I’ve done lots of training with health professionals and am associated with the Plain Language Service at the Canadian Public Health Association. http://www.cpha.ca/en/pls.aspx

    Reply
    • 4. storygal  |  January 30, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      Thanks, Debra. That would be a good addition, rather an essential to those with low litercy skills.

      Reply
  • 5. raisethegaze  |  February 18, 2012 at 1:27 am

    Story Gal,
    I mentally struggle with the matter of adopting a plain language approach in writing, although I am now finally waking up to the wisdom and practical need to do that.
    I think it’s in part because I personally desire to grow in vocabulary and have an interest in words.
    My wife, who is a pragmatic individual and a plain speech person by temperament, has been on my case about that for years.
    A very interesting post.
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • 6. storygal  |  February 18, 2012 at 3:59 am

      It depends on your audience. Like a newspaper that caters to those who have limited education, plain language would be a good thing. Even with an expanded vocabulary, strong nouns and the right verbs are still important. What do you think?

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply

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