13 October 2021
The Reader’s Speech | International Plain Language Day
Many people find it hard or impossible to understand texts written by the government and other organisations. You often read that these people are functionally illiterate. But don’t you think that’s odd? Is it their responsibility if they don’t understand a text?
The reader doesn’t think so! In The Reader’s Speech you hear from the reader what it’s like to get difficult texts. Writers everywhere, listen to The Reader’s Speech.
September 1, 2020
Online training in Brussels from France and the Netherlands with Servier
I'm sure of it now: an online workshop can be just as much fun as a classroom workshop. The great mood at Servier Benelux in Brussels last Tuesday proves this point. Servier makes medicines and provides patient information about symptoms and illness. The writers at Servier thought that this patient information could be a bit simpler. And that is exactly what we taught them.
Two languages, two workshops
Both French and Dutch speakers work for the company in Brussels. Therefore, they asked for not one, but two workshops. This was a first for Plain Language Europe: giving the same workshop in Dutch and French at the same time...online.
The latter was never the plan. But in these times, things change. Fortunately, the writers at Servier were up for an online adventure. Everyone had experience with Teams, so that was fine. And while the French-speaking workshop did experience some technical issues, the trainer – Agathe – quickly switched to the telephone to stay in touch with the group. The Dutch-speaking workshop had no technical issues at all.
Lots of reactions
French trainer Agathe and Dutch trainer Simo from Plain Language Europe kicked off their sessions at the same time with some questions. How does the fact that people have different language levels affect your text? How important is it that the patient understands every word? Servier's writers were looking forward to the training and there were plenty of positive reactions.
We also discussed some writing tips together. How do you write with the right mindset? What is the best order of ideas? What can you do with your sentences and words to make the text easier to understand? Then: practice! The writers took serious steps to improve their own texts. But of course, there was time for laughter too. ‘Keep the anal area clean’.
In short: the workshops were a success, as the participants learned a lot and laughed a lot. Servier Benelux now writes in Plain English!
April 9, 2019
Plain Language Bill in Ireland
Plain English will become compulsory in the public sector when the Irish parliament passes new legislation later this year. The goal of the Plain Language Bill 2019 is that all communications from the public sector will be written in plain language. It will cover all new documents, from forms and emails to websites and reports.
Member of Parliament Noel Rock developed the bill. He worked with the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) to develop the Plain Language Bill. He said that while some Government forms were already in accessible language ‘it’s clear we need a universal standard across all departments’.
Inez Bailey of NALA: ‘We know that both citizens and governments benefit from clear information, written in plain language. Citizens are more likely to understand their rights. And governments are more likely to make better use of their resources.’
Source: Law Society Gazette Ireland - www.lawsociety.ie
September 4, 2018
British doctors urged to write letters to patients in plain English
The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges encourages doctors to write their outpatient clinic letters directly to patients. And to write these letters in plain English. In plain English doctors can give patients the information they want or need to know in a way they can understand.
What is the goal of the outpatient letter?
The outpatient letter has three goals:
- Record facts about the patient’s health.
- Communicate a plan to the patient and the General Practitioner.
- Present information in a way that improves understanding.
Writing in plain English
Not all doctors find it easy to write in plain English. For them an online plain English course can be helpful. The crash course Writing in Plain English is a good start. Doctors who want to improve their skills can also do the full course Writing in Plain English.
May 25, 2018
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and plain language
From 25 May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies. The objective of the General Data Protection Regulation is to strengthen data protection for all individuals within the European Union. The regulation does not require national governments to pass any enabling legislation. It therefore applies to every resident of the European Union from 25 May 2018. Two things are important. European residents have to give consent to process personal data. And the request for consent must be written in plain language. There is a European standard for plain language. And what is plain language is measurable.
The processing of personal data is lawful only, subject to a few exceptions, if a person has given consent. He has to give consent to the processing of his personal data for specific purposes. And the organisation must be able to demonstrate that the person has consented to processing of his personal data.
The request for consent must be written in plain language
Article 7-2 of the GDPR requires that the request for consent must be presented in ‘clear and plain language’. A person must be aware of the fact that and the extent to which he has given consent. So an organisation must write in plain language what are the purposes of the processing of personal data. This also holds for technologically complex practices, which make it difficult for an individual to know and understand for what purposes his personal data are collected and processed. For example in the case of online advertising.
Children merit specific protection, the GDPR says. So where an organisation addresses communication about personal data to a child, the organisation must write things in such a clear and plain language that the child can easily understand.
What is plain language?
The question is: What is plain language? At the beginning of this century the Council of Europe developed the so-called Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. With this Common European Framework we are able to measure the language level or the language proficiency of individuals. And to measure the language level or the difficulty of texts.
Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
The Common European Framework distinguishes six language levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2, A1 being the lowest level and C2 the highest. Most organisations usually write their texts at language level C1. At the same time some 60% of the population has language level B1. Therefore, most people do not understand these texts.
Plain language is language level B1
On the other hand, if you write at language level B1, 95% of the population understands your text. While the content of your text stays exactly the same. That is why language level B1 is called plain language.