Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Plain Language Resources for Law, Business, Government, and Life

The Free Pint newsletter features an article in the most recent issue about plain language.

Clear language or plain language refers to jargon-free, understandable language. For the past 20 years or more, an international movement has been working to make the language used in law, health information, financial services, commerce and business more accessible. Plain language does NOT mean dumbed down or simplistic vocabulary.

The article refers to many plain language writing resources, including many in the legal field.

Major plain language resources include:

  • PLAIN – Plain Language International Network : This is an international movement with members from Canada, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Sweden, New Zealand, and Japan. The Web site contains editing and writing resources for legal and business writers, journalists and scientists, links to governmental plain language initiatives in the USA, Canada and Sweden, a news archive as well as the conference proceedings of the September 2002 PLAIN conference held in Toronto and other conferences. 2002 Conference participants also made available a list of suggested print and Web resources.
  • Plain English Campaign :The granddaddy of the clear language lobbies, this UK-based group attracts lots of media attention because of its well-known annual awards for the most obscure and indecipherable examples of gobbledygook in the English-speaking world: the Golden Bull Awards for business and government obfuscation and the Foot in Mouth Award fo the year’s most baffling quote. Many of you might remember that actor Richard Gere won the Foot in Mouth Award in 2002 for his insightful comment "I know who I am. No one else knows who I am. If I was a giraffe and somebody said I was a snake, I'd think 'No, actually I am a giraffe’." And in 2003, United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld won the coveted Foot in Mouth Award for comments made in a press briefing. You may recall (who doesn't?): "Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know." Whatever...
  • Clear Language and Design - CLAD : A Toronto-based consultancy group, CLAD was a co-sponsor of the 2002 PLAIN conference mentioned above. Among other services, CLAD has invented a Reading Effectiveness Tool to find out if your draft manuscript is at the right level for your intended audience. This interactive tool is based on the Simple Measure Of Gobbledegook (SMOG) readability formula.
  • Clear Communication Resources : List of resources from Canada’s National Adult Literacy Database
  • Clarity : Law librarians will want to have a look. Clarity is an international association of lawyers and legal writers whose goals include clear legal writing for the general citizenry by avoiding archaic, obscure, and over-elaborate language.
  • Plain Language Action & Information Network : In the United States, this is a government-wide group of volunteers working to improve communications from the U.S. federal government to the public. Members include practitioners from many different segments of the U.S. public sector and the Web site includes many reference links and writing tools.
  • Oxford Dictionary Plain English :Top tips for keeping your writing user-friendly from Oxford University Press.
  • Writing for the Web : From the Web site of Internet usability guru Jakob Nielsen, links to research and guides on how better writing for the Web medium can boost usability.
  • The 100 Worst "Groaners" : As the site explains: "A 'groaner' is a hackneyed, overblown, stuffy or just plain silly cliché that turns up time after time in news scripts. Groaners show laziness on the part of writers, disrespect for the folks watching, and a general contempt for lively English. Here are some of the worst offenders. You’ll recognize them immediately, so get ready to groan!"


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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:26 pm