Feds make better grades in 2015

The Center for Plain Language recently released final grades for US federal agencies. After completing a rigorous evaluation process, they concluded that Participation by agencies in the Center for Plain Language Federal Plain Language Report Card reached an all-time high: 23 agencies submitted materials for review, including all 15 Cabinet-level departments. Compliance scores increased overall: Eight…

Readers label you based on your style

I’m in Seattle at the Association for Business Communication conference. Erin Kane and I will present “Reader Perception of Workplace-Writer Attributes” this afternoon. (Our fellow researchers, Nicole Amare and Alan Manning couldn’t make the trip.) We had more than 600 working adults in the US tell us whether they preferred the more plain or less…

Plain language requires attention to the process

The first three parts of my series on defining plain language focused on the three aspects of the rhetorical triangle: (1) textual elements like style and organization, (2) reader outcomes like comprehension and usability, and (3) writer outcomes like organizational costs and benefits. To overcome the limitations of any one of those aspects when considered alone,…

Plain language requires attention to the text

To celebrate International Plain Language Day, I’m republishing a four-part series in which I defined “plain language” a couple of years ago. Part three was accidentally published last night. [sigh] Here’s part one. Perhaps the most obvious way to define plain language is to focus on the words a writer chooses. For instance, a common proscription…

Choose active vs. passive voice strategically

No grammatical construction raises the ire of writing “experts” like the passive. Geoff Pullum (a regular contributor to Lingua Franca at the Chronicle of Higher Education) provided two marvelous examples in a research paper titled “Fear and loathing of the English passive.” The passive voice liquidates and buries the active individual, along with most of the awful…