plain canada's plain and simple, vol. 3
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!
PLAIN Canada's plain and simple, vol. 2
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 email@example.com.
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.
PLAIN Canada’s Plain and Simple, Vol. 1
PLAIN Canada promotes plain language in Canada in both official languages. It is a volunteer, unincorporated, member organization working to build a community of plain language professionals and advocates.
PLAIN Canada provides resources and networking opportunities for supporters of plain language in Canada.
We are launching this newsletter to:
Each edition will feature:
This newsletter is available in both French and English.
In this issue
In this first issue, we will introduce our patron, Cheryl Stephens.
Some of our ideas for future articles include the following topics:
In the coming months, we will solicit your ideas for articles and ask for contributions to our newsletter. Watch our website and our groups on LinkedIn and Facebook for calls for submissions or invitations to collaborate on future editions.
We look forward to hearing your ideas and building our community!
Jocelyn Pletz and Chantale Audet
We are proud to introduce Cheryl Stephens as the patron of PLAIN Canada. Cheryl is a leader, author, editor, educator, consultant, and trainer who specializes in plain language communication.
Although Cheryl initially trained as a lawyer, for over thirty years she has worked tirelessly to promote and build the legal writing and plain language writing movement throughout Canada and the world. Cheryl co-founded the Plain Language Association International (PLAIN) in 1993 and was later named the organization’s first life member.
At the PLAIN conference in Oslo, Norway, in 2019, a group of Canadians decided to organize a plain language group that focused on the unique needs of Canadian plain language practitioners. For example, we not only have two official languages, we are also one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world. Many Canadians do not speak English or French as a native language. Following the Oslo conference, Cheryl got to work and started organizing PLAIN Canada.
Cheryl is a prolific writer and her latest book, Plain Language in Plain English, is a comprehensive guide to clear communication. See all of Cheryl’s books at Plain Language Wizardry.
FREE Online Training
The Plain Train, an online plain language training program created by Cheryl Stephens, is based on Plain Language, Clear and Simple, the training resource for plain language developed by the Government of Canada. The pamphlet is out of print, but Iva Cheung has made a digital copy available in both languages. Read about the background to that project here. In Cheryl’s course, you will find helpful tips and techniques for improving your communication skills by using plain language.
Networking & Training
PLAIN Canada has been hosting monthly virtual meetings, which have included webinars, presentations, and Q&As. They have become very popular, and many have provided excellent training.
In recognition of the time and efforts required to prepare these presentations, we would like to be able to offer an honorarium for presenters. However, to do that, we may need to start charging an attendance fee.
In the coming weeks, watch for more information about our webinar schedule for the year and our plans for charging a modest fee for attendance. We are also exploring the option of inviting people to pay an annual membership fee in exchange for free access to all our webinars and training opportunities.
Unconference planned for 2021/2022
Unlike traditional conferences, an “unconference” is a participant-driven meeting that is less structured and encourages collaboration and discussion. Instead of formal presentations, everyone participates and contributes their experiences and expertise.
Watch for more information on LinkedIn and Facebook. To make sure you don’t miss any important announcements, [click here to join our mailing list].
Awards & Recognition
During the 2021 PLAIN conference, several members of our PLAIN Canada community received recognition for their work in plain language.
Plain Language Academies received the Cheryl Stephens Plain Language Innovation Award. This international award was presented to Kate Harrison Whiteside, founder and director of Plain Language Academies. Congratulations to the Plain Language Academies team for their groundbreaking contributions to the field of plain language.
Chantale Audet and Amélie Bourret of Autrement dit received their second ClearMark Award. The ClearMark Awards recognize plain language communications created by North American organizations. They are presented to successful recipients during the awards ceremony at the PLAIN conference.
Chantale and Amélie received their first ClearMark Award last year in the Before and After (Digital) category. This year, they were recognized in the French Language category for their work with Autisme Quebec on the Série de fiches d’éducation financière pour jeunes adultes autistes.
Canadian Digital Service and Health Canada received the ClearMark Award in the Apps category in recognition of their work on COVID Alert, Canada’s exposure notification app.
Featured Online Resources
Explore the Resources page on the PLAIN Canada website for links to:
On the website, you will also find links to training resources, including the Plain Train.
December 27th, 2020
Plain Canada Clair
Year-end reflection of Patron Cheryl Stephens
As a founder and now the Patron of PLAIN Canada CLAIR, I want to report on our year of activity. It was only a year ago that we organized a home for Canada’s plain language supporters but we have accomplished a lot in a very difficult year.
1. the LinkedIn group PLAIN Canada with 250 members: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12301364/
2. websites in both English and French: PlainCanada.org and https://www.PlainCanada.org/accueil.html
3. a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PLAINCanadaCLAIR
4. monthly membership meetings with guest speakers
5. a webinar on the scientific support for using plain language
Volunteers at work
We also have an active planning board and several functioning committees for: advocacy, training, communication. Our first newsletter is under production.
Members of our training committee are contributing to the new training project of the International Plain Language Federation. Members of our group are participating in the work of Access Canada.
We have set these priorities
These goals were set after consulting our membership.
Promote and inform:
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