International Plain Language Day
Plain Language Day Should Be Everyday
Let me tell you what my wishes are for the future and why. This is my call:
1. Plain language guidelines taught in high school
2. Plain language included all college and university writing courses
3. Cognitive psychology and neuroscience discoveries incorporated in plain language
4. Standards of plain language set by plain language professionals not legislators
Plain language guidelines taught in high school
In Canada, some provinces are turning the focus of high school English courses from literature to writing. Students learn to write business reports and correspondence, executive summaries, and other documents typical of the modern workplace. And from the start, the basic plain language guidelines have been incorporated. Those are the sort of writing suggestions you see published as 10 Tips to Write Plain English. At minimum, these are guidelines to modern writing and should be taught in high schools alongside advice on considering the audience and using appropriate formats and structures.
Plain language included in all college and university writing courses
Plain language writing processes and style guidelines need to be included in the teaching of all business and professional writing. Think of it as “Plain Language Across the Curriculum”. Professional development programs at the graduate level and in continuing professional education need to teach plain language in all communication modes, including writing and speech-making. Plain language is the most persuasive language.
I gathered 18 international contributors to write Plain Language in Plain English with this in mind.
Cognitive psychology and neuroscience discoveries applied
Plain language process and guidelines have developed in stages from what the then-current level of knowledge provided:
1. Advancing classical rhetoric
2. Promoting modern writing style
3. Incorporating the tools of user-testing
4. Scientific research into subjects like typology or brain functions
But scientific research has expanded so much in the last 20 years that plain language practitioners could not keep up. Money for research is needed to ensure that plain language procedures take advantage of current scientific discoveries. The most significant of these seem to be in the new area of study: cognitive fluency.
Standards of plain language set by professionals based on science
Early U.S. legislation in the consumer field set specific guidelines for readability and typography in consumer contracts. More recent legislation, even internationally, has set more general guidelines, such as saying that documents must be understandable to the intended readers.
With the newly discovered information about how the brain processes information through reading, we can be more specific in the guidelines that are set. I am hoping that academics and scientists can produce practical guidelines for communicating effectively with the person with average abilities.
Legal requirements should be based on provable facts.
Personally, I can’t wait for International Plain Language Day October 13, 2012