In this month’s edition of our newsletter, we feature an article by Gael Spivak on the international standard for plain language practitioners. Gael explains the benefits of having and using the standard. Gael also offers us an opportunity to participate in the promotion and implementation of the standard.
You will read about our October 13 celebration of International Plain Language Day. We extend our appreciation to all who spoke, including the recent award winners recognized during the PLAIN conference held in May.
Our featured member is Katherine McManus. Katherine would very humbly say she just followed doors that were opened, but we would say her intelligence, wisdom, and expertise created the doors that then opened to her.
Cheryl Stephens, our Patron, continues to explore the brain and plain language and share her knowledge. Check out the Patron’s Corner to see an exciting offer for connection starting in December!
Finally, in our upcoming events session, we highlight future speakers (December 13, 2021, and January 17, 2022) and share a link to e-Journal from the international organization PLAIN (International). They are making the journal available to practitioners, including those who are not currently members.
If you have an idea for future articles please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jocelyn Pletz and Chantale Audet
An International Standard for Plain Language Practitioners
By Gael Spivak
Until recently, there has been no universal standard for creating plain language documents or for judging what is plain. This makes it difficult to assess the quality of documents.
Filling this need: a standard
For several years, plain language practitioners have been discussing options for creating an international standard. As you can see from the Timeline of Developing the ISO Plain Language Standard, the work has been truly international.
The plain language standard developed through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is based on an internationally agreed-upon definition. This means plain language practitioners around the world support this standard.
For the first time, we will have an agreed-upon standard that tells people what plain language is and how to create plain language documents.
How will this standard help?
The standard will be a valuable addition to your plain language tool kit.
What’s new in the standard?
Many aspects of the standard will be familiar to plain language practitioners. There are some new items in it that have not always been part of plain language work for all practitioners.
For example, there is information on
How can you get the standard?
The standard will be published in English, French, and Russian, which are the official ISO languages. People in many countries are already working on localizing and translating the standard for their cultures and languages.
Once it is published, you can buy a copy of the standard through your country’s standard-setting body or you can buy it directly from ISO.
Help us spread the word
PLAIN (International) will promote this standard around the world because it is useful, and it shows that plain language is a profession. You can be at the forefront of this change; join us in using and promoting the standard.
Contact me [Gael] if you want to do either of these:
Featured Member: Katherine McManus
By Jocelyn Pletz
I was thrilled to interview Katherine McManus for our member profile column. Katherine is many things: educator, innovator, feminist, entrepreneur, textile artist, and advocate for plain language writing and editing.
As an educator, Katherine taught English and developed, then managed for many years the Writing Centre at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. She left that work to do graduate work at UBC and, in 2001, she completed her PhD in Adult Education. Soon after, Katherine began working for Simon Fraser University, initially in Distance Education (converting traditional “distance” courses into online courses), then in Continuing Education. Under Katherine’s management, the Writing Program, a part of the continuing studies professional development offerings, grew to include certificates in editing, plain language writing, and public relations.
Katherine used her background in online learning to redevelop most of the certificate courses into online courses so that more people would have access to them. Katherine understood the need for the learners (primarily women) to have access to flexible adult learning programs. She ensured the integrity of the certificate programs and successfully managed the tension between academic programs (and funding) and adult and community learning programs. Many learners were able to transition and progress in their writing and editing careers because they had completed a certificate program developed by Katherine.
Katherine is recognized internationally as both an educator and plain language advocate. She started in plain language writing when she was asked to join a European team who had received a Erasmus+ grant. She travelled first to Sweden to learn from the team about plain language as it is conceived and delivered in much of the European Union. The team, formally organized as IC Clear, developed 5 Plain Language courses with the Erasmus+ grant money. From Sweden, Katherine worked in Estonia, Lisbon, Antwerp, and Vienna.
Katherine has been an active Canadian representative on the team developing the training standards to complement the (proposed) ISO standard. Although she has retired from her directorship with Simon Fraser University, she continues to teach in the Plain Language Certificate program and the Writers’ Studio. As well, Katherine is an active member of PLAIN Canada and is committed to our objectives and our growth.
Katherine highlights for me the richness of our plain language community. There are as many paths into plain language writing and editing as there are practitioners. The value of our diverse backgrounds will ensure we can eventually have practitioners in every industry.
International Plain Language Day
By Chantale Audet et Amélie Bourret
On October 13, 2021, during International Plain Language Week, we held an online celebration of the many successes of our plain language community! Two of the award winners who were recognized during the PLAIN (International) conference spoke about their projects and awards:
Kate Harrison Whiteside of Plain Language Academies received the Cheryl Stephens Innovation Award, an award that recognizes innovation in plain language. The award was given to Kate for her contribution to the plain language community; she has worked in the field of plain language for many years and is recognised internationally.
Kate is the director of Plain Language Academy and recently co-founded Plain Language Academies. Plain Language Academies offers a range of online plain language courses in English, French, and Spanish.
Chantale Audet and Amélie Bourret of Autrement dit received their second ClearMark Award in a North American competition for plain language content. The award was given in the “French language” category for a large financial literacy project for people living with autism. In all, the project consists of 18 documents, each covering topics in personal finance management. The project was carried out using the plain language process. The documents are available free of charge here.
In addition, other Canadian success stories were mentioned:
The Canadian Digital Service and Health Canada also received a ClearMark Award in the "Apps" category. The award was given for the COVID Alert app that allows Canadians to be notified of their potential exposure to COVID-19.
Finally, several participants at the October 13 event highlighted the efforts and achievements of various provincial governments in plain language, including Nova Scotia, Québec, and Alberta.
By Cheryl Stephens
My plans in the coming months:
On December 1, I’ll be starting monthly fireside chats, a casual exchange. I’ll take your questions and suggestions for topical conversations. These free and sociable sessions will take place at noon (Pacific Standard Time) on Zoom. You can register on Eventbrite to get the session link. You will only have to register once for the ongoing event.
Plain Language School
Early in 2022, I am launching my own Plain Language School (plainlanguage.com) where I will offer a Plain Language 3.0 program. The plain language field of study has evolved and advanced over the past 40 years. These courses converge practices from several communication professions with the results of years of research in the brain sciences.
Plain Language in Plain English
A little later in 2022, the new edition of Plain Language in Plain English will appear. I have gathered a great group of advisors to help me make it better than I could have imagined. Watch for it.
Upcoming Events for PLAIN Canada
4 Pillars of Plain Business Communication
December 13, 2021, Noon Pacific; 3 pm EST
Presenter: Sandra Folk
Sandra Folk is the founder of DrSandraFolk.com, a business communications training company working with business executives, including those whose first language is not English. Sandra delivers an 8-week coaching program for major banks, engineering companies, commercial real estate companies, governments and to individuals. She holds a doctorate in education from the University of Toronto.
Use this link to download Communicate with Clarity: A Quick Guide for High-Performing Executives, by Dr. Sandra Folk
To register, visit our Eventbrite page.
La pédagogie au service de la communication claire et simple
January 17, 2022, Noon Pacific; 3pm EST
Presenters: Laurence Gascon and Isabelle Bourgeois, Éducaloi
You know what plain language is. You may know what pedagogy is. But did you know that pedagogy can help your audience better retain the information you are trying to communicate in plain language?
We invite you to come and talk to an educational consultant and a public legal educator about how their expertise can work together for the benefit of the public ... and your business!
The educational objectives of the session are:
One last point—expect to participate! We look forward to putting the techniques and strategies we share into practice!
Register: watch Eventbrite and LinkedIn for registration details.
PLAIN (International) e-Journal
We are excited to share with you the Plain Language Association International eJournal as a benefit to you, our readers. This digital resource is published twice a year. By sharing this journal, we aim to help you stay up to date with international developments in plain language.