This edition of the newsletter recaps 2022 for Plain Canada Clair. Our featured member is our organization (smile). Along with our recap, we briefly outline some next steps for our organization. As this is a year-end review, we will complete the series on how to estimate your fee in our next newsletter.
Don’t miss our Patron’s Corner to learn about PLAIN International events and the Cheryl Stephens Innovation Award.
As always, please email comments and questions to email@example.com. If you’re interested and available to volunteer a few hours a month, please let us know.
We wish you all the best for 2023.
Jocelyn Pletz and Chantale Audet
February 13 - PLAIN Canada CLAIR Social (English)
We’ll be talking about accessibility and the strengths and weaknesses of on-line tools for our practice. We’ll also talk about plain language awards people can apply for this winter. Please join us for the discussion!
March 13 - PLAIN Canada CLAIR social (French)
We haven’t set topics yet and we are interested to hear your suggestions. Please send your topic ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plain Canada Clair - Our Year
This has been a busy year for Plain Canada Clair! We grew from informal networking on LinkedIn to an organization with bylaws and a bank account. We are set to grow and promote the growth of plain language writing and design in Canada.
October 18, we held our first annual conference – online in both French and English. It was our first participatory conference, and we look forward to more events like that. We thank all who presented and all who attended; we learned from you (and from the process). The opportunity to hear of your experiences in the provinces and territories was valuable.
We held several professional development sessions. We are grateful that we had a variety of presentations for you – some in French and some in English. The topics included
Isabelle Ladouceur-Séguin explained linguistic conservatism and plain language in written French to help us understand how complicated it is to use plain language in French.
We improved and expanded our bilingual website and social media. We are growing each month; new followers sign up through LinkedIn, Eventbrite, and Facebook.
Our newsletter is available in both French and English. We have introduced several members of the volunteer group who are building Plain Canada Clair. We love receiving your feedback and we know that our articles are helpful as you grow your practice.
We are a small group of volunteers, and we need your help!
Please email us at email@example.com if you are interested in getting involved. Short-term initiatives include growing our membership and developing resources for practitioners. As well, submissions for the newsletter are welcomed and encouraged.
Starting soon, we will be offering a paid membership to plain language practitioners. Your membership will give you free access to monthly webinars, as well as ongoing access to all recordings from past sessions. You will also be helping Plain Canada Clair to expand our advocacy initiatives.
Cost will be $25 per year.
Patron's Corner - By Cheryl Stephens
The Cheryl Stephens Innovation Award of Plain Language Association International (PLAIN) honours innovation in plain language practices. The purpose of the award is to recognize advancements in our field.
Wondering if you meet the criteria as an innovator? Dictionaries define innovation as a new idea, method, or device or the process of making an idea or invention into a good or service. The Conference Board of Canada and Business Development Canada add social and economic value to their definition. Please start thinking about nominations for your own or someone else’s work.
I appreciate that this award honours me as one of PLAIN’s co-founders and my contributions to our movement. The award will be presented at the next PLAIN conference in Argentina in 2023.
Also, I continue to offer my Fireside Chats are every month on the 2nd of each month (at noon Pacific; 3:00 p.m. Eastern). Go to Eventbrite to learn more about how to participate. These sessions are open to everyone in the Plain Canada Clair community. Don’t be shy!
Welcome. It is hard to believe that our summer is over!
Our feature article in this edition was written by our patron, Cheryl Stephens. Check it out below to learn more about your brain on reading as Cheryl simplifies the complex systems we use to process new information.
As well, we continue our series on how to estimate your fee for a project. This instalment addresses how to set your hourly rate.
Our featured members are Chantale Audet and Amélie Bourret of Autrement dit. Chantale and Amélie are entrepreneurs, anthropologists, and experts in qualitative methods and plain language writing. Autrement dit celebrated its 5th anniversary this July; despite being a relatively new company, they have already received two ClearMark Awards for some of their projects. We hope you enjoy this brief introduction to these dynamic women.
Don’t miss our Patron’s Corner to read about upcoming training and other projects by our patron, Cheryl Stephens. As always, please email comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jocelyn Pletz and Chantale Audet
September 19, 2022, 12:00 noon (Pacific), Zoom
A Plain Canada Clair social event. Join us to meet fellow practitioners throughout Canada. We will also tell you about our October conference, which we will be hosting as part of the international recognition of plain language writing (October 13 is PLAIN language day)!
Uncomplicated: A Plain Language Participatory Conference
October 18, 2022, 12:00 noon (Pacific), Zoom
This participatory conference will feature discussions in both French and English. We’re describing it as a participatory online conference, which means everyone attending will participate in the discussions. The best part is that you can even be part of the planning by voting on the topics you wish to discuss – see our Eventbrite page for more information and watch for registration starting in September.
Feature Article: Your Brain on Reading
By Cheryl Stephens
Research shows, the less work readers need to put into reading, the more they will find sources credible, and the better they will connect with the messages.
I’ve been talking to people about the brain and reading, and readability, and writability. As plain language writers, we always seek information about our reading audience. How people use their brains to read is the most common feature we all share.
No one is born with a reading program or organ; each must learn to read. To read, our brains use many brain structures. We also use the brain’s default operating system. And our brains continuously modify that system. For example, nowadays our reading practice is to skim, skip, or scan – we’ve learned these practices from reading online.
How do we think?
Our default operating system
We gather information through our senses. We process the information while it is still live in sensory memory. It moves along to our short-term memory, where we both hold and work on it. We check our long-term memory for matching patterns to help us identify the new information.
The human reaction is to predict what will happen next and to prepare a response. Then reality unfolds in front of us, and we learn if our prediction was correct. If we were wrong, we predict again, adding the latest sensory information.
Still working in our short-term memory, we decide what to do with this information. Do we dispose of new information as irrelevant to our needs, or send it along, and connect it to another memory in long-term storage?
The method we use for reading
When we see a printed word, we pronounce the sounds to identify the word from our experience. We are listening in our minds to the sounds (phonemes) while we visually process what we see – letter symbols – as language.
Meanwhile, we try to identify the word’s function in the sentence: verb, subject, other. Knowing its function helps us decide which meaning is the one intended. In English, our brains expect a sentence structured subject-verb-object (S-V-O), the default pattern for sentences.
For the reasons outlined above, when writing English, we should choose
Neuroscience provides many more clues to producing fluent, easy reading. The writer who uses these tactics will make reading more efficient, effective, and memorable.
Want to learn more?
Send Cheryl your questions. You can also check her website for more information and links to webinars on the subject.
Chantale Audet and Amélie Bourret, Autrement dit
By Jocelyn Pletz
What happens when you have two anthropologists with advanced degrees – one of them with an education certificate and plain language courses through Simon Fraser University – and a passion for clear communication and plain language writing? They form a successful company, of course!
Autrement dit, is an award-winning company that provides plain language rewriting services for businesses, non-profits, and public sector organizations throughout Quebec. Recently, they have expanded into other provinces. As Autrement dit, Chantale and Amélie also develop and deliver training to various organizations, in and outside of Canada, to help their clients develop better writing skills and integrate plain language in their work.
Both Chantale and Amélie bring their research and writing expertise to their business. They have backgrounds in public health through their work at the Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec (INSPQ). While with INSPQ, they were editor and co-editor respectively of the guide From Tiny Tot to Toddler, a landmark guide distributed each year to all expecting parents in Quebec. For more than 10 years, they communicated relevant, clear, and practical information to parents, helping many to feel empowered and confident in their new role as parents. It was during this time that they became familiar with plain language and health literacy.
Although they have vast experience in the health sector, their services are not limited to health organizations or topics, nor are they limited to French projects. Their first ClearMark Award was for their rewrite of a bilingual website for an environment and forest engineering firm: Dominic Roy, ingénieur forestier. Their second ClearMark Award was for their work on a financial management series created to help young adults with autism manage their finances: Série de fiches d'éducation financière pour jeunes adultes autistes.
Despite busy lives, these two also founded the Académie du langage clair et simple, the French-speaking wing of Plain Language Academies. These energetic leaders are making a significant contribution to our plain language profession, and we know bigger things are yet to come.
How to Set Your Hourly Rate
Adapted with permission from Accurate Estimating by Michelle Boulton
There are different types of editing and not all editors get paid the same—add in the nuances of plain language editing, which include elements of structural, stylistic, and copyediting, and it can be hard to know what to charge for an hourly rate.
In this instalment, we show you how to calculate an hourly rate based on your annual income goal. Please don’t underprice your services – you want to charge a rate that is competitive for your clients, but also fair to you.
For demonstration purposes, we’ll be using $50,000 a year as an annual earning goal.
First, calculate how many hours you will work in a year:
8 hours a day × 5 days / week = 40 hours / week × 52 weeks / year = 2,080 hours
Factor in paid leave:
15 vacation days + 10 statutory holidays + 5 sick days = 240 hours / year
2,080 − 240 = 1,840 working hours / year
Now divide your income goal by the number of working hours in a year to get your hourly rate.
$50,000 / year ÷ 1,840 working hours = $27.17 / hour
But wait! Don’t forget about benefits (e.g., extended medical and dental benefits, disability or life insurance, RRSP contributions). These typically cost employers an additional 30% for each employee.
$50,000 / year × 30% = $15,000 / year
$15,000 ÷ 1,840 working hours / year = $8.15 / hour
$27.17 / hour + $8.15 / hour = $35.32 / hour
Now, given that most editors are lucky to bill for 4 hours in an 8-hour day (assuming they spend the other 4 hours doing things like answering email, bookkeeping, filing, invoicing, marketing, and so on), you need to charge twice as much per hour to cover the half of each day that you are not able to bill for:
$35.32 × 2 = $70.64 per hour
Finally, if you’re self-employed, you have a lot of other expenses to cover (office space, equipment, supplies, and so on). These are going to vary depending on your situation, but don’t forget to factor these in when you set your hourly rate.
Looking for a simpler formula?
A savvy colleague (Wilfred Popoff) once shared this formula with me: desired annual income, divided by 1,000 potential billable hours, and multiplied by 1.5 to account for expenses.
$50,000 ÷ 1,000 × 1.5 = $75 / hour
Check out Cheryl’s website for information on her new course, Plain Language 3.0. Cheryl also lists her recommendations for training, including links to other trainers and training programs.
Cheryl’s Fireside Chats are on the first day of every month (at noon Pacific; 3:00 p.m. Eastern). Go to Eventbrite to learn more about how to participate. These sessions are open to everyone in the Plain Canada Clair community. Don’t be shy! Cheryl is welcoming and can help you build your confidence as a practitioner, advocate, and entrepreneur.
Welcome. This edition of the newsletter introduces the first of a series on how to accurately estimate your fee on a project. Whether you are developing a response to a tender or preparing an estimate for a client, you want your estimate to be accurate so that the work will be profitable. The series will cover the following topics:
We hope you enjoy the series. Please email comments and questions to email@example.com.
Our featured member this month is Isabelle Ladouceur-Séguin. Isabelle is a plain language writer based in Quebec. She is a linguist by training and has experience writing for the health care sector. Isabelle is an emerging leader at the forefront of the plain language movement. Isabelle will be our featured speaker in May, as she helps practitioners marry the rigid rules of written French with the plain language writing principles.
Don’t miss our Patron’s Corner to read about upcoming training and other projects by our patron, Cheryl Stephens.
Jocelyn Pletz and Chantale Audet
Rédaction claire en français : comment composer avec le conservatisme linguistique?
May 16, 2022, 12:00 PM ET (Zoom)
Presenter: Isabelle Ladouceur-Séguin
Let's face it: the French written standard is still largely stuck in the past. More precisely, in the 18th century! So where does this attachment to old French come from? Are French speakers the world champions of linguistic conservatism? And what impact might this have on the accessibility of written content?
Isabelle Ladouceur-Séguin, a linguist by training and a scientific popularizer, will present the history of standard French and debunk the myths associated with it. She will then suggest ways to adapt our written language to the readers of the 21st century.
To register, visit our Eventbrite page.
Before and After: A Plain Language Makeover for Your Tables, Charts, and Graph
Monday, June 13 (TBD) Zoom
Presenter: Michelle Boulton
Well-dressed tables, charts, and graphs can be wonderful storytellers. Watch as ugly, ineffective illustrations are transformed into stylish raconteurs that draw attention to key points and convey information much more effectively than narrative text. Michelle will show you some easy techniques that will help you make over your tables, charts, and graphs so that you can send them out looking like real showstoppers.
Michelle Boulton is a clear communication strategist and coordinator of Plain Canada Clair.
Featured Article - How to develop an estimate
Adapted with permission from a training program developed by Michelle Boulton, 3c publications
by Jocelyn Pletz
You’ve been invited to provide a quote for a plain language rewrite. If you’re like most of us, you are excited by the project, but the excitement quickly shifts to apprehension. How do you make your estimate accurate so that the work will be profitable?
It is hard to predict how fast a plain language editor and writer can work. Plain language editing includes substantive, structural and stylistic editing, copyediting, and proofreading. Plus, plain language editing involves audience testing and revision stages, which may not be part of a traditional edit.
Editors Canada’s Professional Editorial Standards define what is expected of Canadian editors and the criteria against which their knowledge, skills, and practices can be measured. For example, they suggest typical times based on the type of editing and the type of document – standard, difficult, or specialized.
When asked to submit a quote, I will ask for a sample of the work to be edited to determine how much work is required to complete the plain language process. Considerations include:
If I feel the material is difficult or specialized, I estimate at least 1 to 2 hours per page (standard editing definition is 250 words); if the edit looks like a standard edit, I estimate at least 1 to 2 hours for 4 to 5 pages.
At this stage of the process, I clarify what is expected of me. As a plain language editor and writer, being clear on the scope of the project is critical and it will help prevent “scope creep” as the project progresses.
Next, I build in time for the following administrative tasks:
Pulling it all together
Using these considerations, estimate the time you will need. Experienced editors have suggested that once you have your estimate, multiply that time by 1.5 or even 2. Their advice works! Over time you will become more confident in your estimates – don’t sell yourself short. Your client will respect your expertise.
Featured Member: Isabelle Ladouceur-Séguin
By Jocelyn Pletz
This month we feature member Isabelle Ladouceur-Séguin. Isabelle is a plain language writer based in Quebec. She is a linguist by training and has experience writing for the health care sector.
Isabelle is an emerging leader at the forefront of the plain language movement. After completing her master’s degree in 2018, she faced the decision to go into academia and complete a PhD or move into the work world.
She started working with a tech company that develops software in the health sector. Working in the pharmacy industry, she realized how important plain language writing was to the patients and pharmacy staff.
Isabelle then worked with a team of plain language writers in a university hospital in Montreal. Here Isabelle honed her skills under a plain language mentor. She wrote material for patients and educational material for staff. Isabelle’s exposure to an organization that was committed to effective communication had an impact – she was hooked.
In August 2021, she made the shift to freelance work as a plain language writer. She is committed to building plain language writing in Quebec in both private sector and public sector organizations.
I look forward to watching Isabelle’s career grow – for someone so young to be so focused and clear on her goals. She will be a rising star for many years.
Cheryl will soon launch Plain Language 3.0. A few of the topics in this program include new developments in
Our next edition will include an article by Cheryl titled, “Your Brain on Reading.”
Cheryl encourages you to join her for her new Fireside Chats on the first of every month (at noon Pacific). Go to Eventbrite to learn more about how to participate. These sessions are open to everyone in the Plain Canada Clair community. Don’t be shy! Cheryl is welcoming and can help you build your confidence as a practitioner, advocate, and entrepreneur.
In this month’s edition of our newsletter, we are featuring an article by Michelle Boulton on how to use white space when designing your communication. This informative piece includes examples that demonstrate the impact of applying this plain language design technique in your work.
As you read her article, we know you will want to learn more about Michelle. Therefore, this edition highlights Michelle Boulton as our featured member. Michelle is based in Saskatchewan, and she is a long-time plain language practitioner (in French and English) as well as a successful business owner. Michelle is a founding member of Plain Canada Clair and she works tirelessly on our behalf.
Cheryl Stephens, our patron, has launched a petition directed to the auditor general of Canada asking for an audit of the government’s implementation of their clear communication policy. Please follow the link below to sign the petition. We encourage you to also share the link.
Other information in this newsletter includes a reminder to start thinking about tax season and information about making a submission for Center for Plain Language‘s 2022 ClearMark Awards .
We wish you all the best for 2022.
Jocelyn Pletz and Chantale Audet
Please go to our Plain Canada website to find information about our monthly online events. To register for an event, or to sign up for registration notifications, visit our Eventbrite page.
On March 14, 2022, Eric E. Vigneault will make a French language presentation (details will be available soon).
Make some space in your documents
By Michelle Boulton
If I could give you just one piece of plain design advice, it would be to add more white space to your documents. Whether you’re creating a report or writing an email, this simple design principle will make your content easier to read and understand.
Why is white space so important?
White space can be used to create emphasis and draw attention to important elements. Generous use of white space in your design will
How can I use white space more effectively?
Start by breaking your text into smaller chunks and leave lots of room around the various elements so they stand out.
But isn’t that just wasted space?
No! White space is one of the most important elements of design. It literally creates space (air) on the page or screen, makes your content lighter and more inviting to read, and funnels your reader’s attention toward the key elements.
How does that work?
Let me demonstrate with this simple piece of text intended to advertise an event.
In this first example, all of the necessary information is there, but it’s hard for the reader to find the various elements — date, time, location . . . Even the name of the performer gets lost.
Let’s inject some space between the different elements.
Already the text is easier to navigate and all we’ve done is add a little extra space.
Let’s take it a step further. By simply making some elements a bit bigger, we highlight the most important information.
See how simple that is? You don’t have to be a graphic designer to use plain design principles that make it easier for your readers to find what they need.
Would you like to learn more?
If you’re interested in learning more about using plain language and design to make your content more effective, please contact Michelle Boulton here.
Featured member - Michelle Boulton
By Chantale Audet
In this issue, we introduce Michelle Boulton, the coordinator of our organization. This plain language enthusiast has extensive experience in the field and has had an inspiring career.
A path leading to plain language
Michelle graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a degree in English. Although she initially envisioned a career as a journalist, her earliest work experiences steered her in a different direction—one that she did not imagine.
Michelle’s various experiences and contracts have indeed directed her toward plain language and information design. Working at a student newspaper (where she was introduced to desktop publishing software), her multiple editing contracts in academic and other fields, as well as her job in the Instructional Design Unit at the University of Saskatchewan helped lay a strong foundation for her expertise in clear communication.
It was Michelle’s time in the Instructional Design Unit that was the most significant for her. In fact, she says this experience was an eye-opener. As part of her work, she supported the person in charge of developing new standards for distance education courses. It was the 1990s, and distance learning was nothing like what we know today. She realized that key information in a document could be geographically positioned on the page to make it easier for the reader to find the key information and remember it. The way information is placed on a page plays an important role and it should not be placed randomly!
This revelation transformed her work. Looking back, she sees that her first steps in information design led her to work in plain language, long before she knew anything about plain language.
Life as an entrepreneur - 3c Publications
Michelle founded her own company, 3c Publications, where she offers various writing, editing, and design services. Her contracts are varied: newsletters, reports, articles, etc.
Michelle says information design is not an aesthetic consideration. It is, rather, about facilitating navigation through information. In addition, she emphasizes the importance of the plain language process and information design in her work. In any project, she says it is essential to bring together, from the beginning, all the contributors: writers, translators, graphic designers, etc. Michelle says it is necessary to strive to integrate the expertise of the various collaborators for the benefit of clarity.
Because of her many contracts in the academic world, Michelle also specializes in the presentation of tables and graphs, which can often be difficult to read. She is currently developing an online course to teach people how to clearly present tables, charts, and graphs.
Editing and advancing plain language in Canada
Michelle is a founding member of Editors Saskatchewan, a branch of Editors Canada. She also served for two years as the national president of Editors Canada.
Michelle’s French roots make her a bilingual plain language expert. Many of her projects are bilingual, so she knows how to effectively combine both official languages.
Her involvement and dedication to the advancement of plain language are undeniable. With Michelle at the helm of Plain Canada Clair, the promotion of plain language is in good hands!
Petition to demand plain language from government
If you've been on LinkedIn, you will have seen that Cheryl has launched a new petition. It asks the auditor general of Canada to audit the implementation of the government’s clear communication policy.
Cheryl asks you to sign the petition and share this information with others:
We demand plain language from government
The federal Policy on Communications and Federal Identity, Section 4.3, says, “Government communications must be objective, factual, nonpartisan, clear, and written in plain language. The communications function entails more than simply providing or receiving information. The way in which the government delivers its communications affects the value of the information, how it is received by the public, and the credibility of its source. Tailoring messages to specific audiences increases the impact of how the information is received.”
Cheryl also encourages you to join her for her new Fireside Chats on the first of every month (at noon Pacific). Go toEventbrite to learn more about how to participate. These sessions are open to everyone in the Plain Canada Clair community.
Tax time is nearing
Tax time can be a positive experience for freelancers—organization and preparation (or the help of a professional) can make all the difference.
One helpful resource is Make Sure It’s Deductible, Fifth Edition, by Evelyn Jacks. This book provides tax tips for running a small business in Canada and it is especially useful for those of us who are freelancing in the “gig” economy.
As well, the Canada Revenue Agency has Liaison Officers who specialize in helping sole proprietors and small business owners, particularly those of us in the freelance world. Their websites offer many tips and helpful hints.
Over the next few months, we will use this space to recognize the team of volunteers who give their time to support Plain Canada Clair. If you are interested and available to volunteer with us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.Your help, even if it is only five hours a month, is always appreciated!
ClearMark Awards (Center for Plain Language)
ClearMark Awards recognize plain language communication created by North American organizations. Want to submit your work to the 2022 ClearMark Awards? They will begin accepting submissions on February 19. Check the link for updates!