Plain language 09.00 – 10.30

Conference Room

Welcome and introduction
Inez Bailey, National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA)

How style guides can contribute to clear and consistent writing.
David Marsh, Production Editor of The Guardian
In this entertaining and useful keynote, David spoke about what style is – and isn’t. He spoke about the value of using a style guide and its core elements:
• grammar and syntax;
• punctuation;
• words and spelling; and
• values.

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Usability and social responsibility: online publishing
David Berman, UN Special Advisor on Web Accessibility
In this keynote, David Berman gave a convincing address as to why computer-mediated accessibility to information – and standards – are important for everyone: to broaden audiences, to comply with the law, to drive down costs, or simply to be socially responsible.

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Plenary Panel 10.45 – 11.30

Empathy: The Forgotten Element of Successful Communication
Dr. Deborah Bosley, President of PLAIN and Principal of the Plain L

In this thought-provoking presentation, Dr Bosley reminded us that people read with their emotions, make decisions based on emotions, and either move toward or away from a brand based on emotions. As plain language communicators, Dr Bosley argued that we have undervalued or perhaps not even considered the emotional impact that information has on readers. Dr Bosley also explained how marketing professionals know and count on emotional responses, but we seem to ignore it. To learn more, please view here presentation.

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What were they expecting? How user expectations affect the success or failure of communications.
Josiah Fisk, President, More Carrot LLC

Of all the factors that can affect the reception and comprehension of a message, audience expectations are among the most overlooked. Yet they can be one of the main sources of communications failure. In this presentation, Josiah looked at how expectations relate to needs and wants, and at the main types of expectations that influence receptiveness and what can shape them. Josiah also looked at why it’s more important to avoid confirming negative expectations than to completely fulfil positive ones. Again, this keynote is another must see.

Video including slides will be provided soon.

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Concurrent Sessions 11.30 – 12.30


Black or white? What is right and what is wrong, and who decides what is wrong?
Eva Olovsson, Language Adviser, Language Council of Sweden (Språkrådet)
Ingrid Olsson, Language Adviser, Language Council of Sweden (Språkrådet)

Conference Room, Basement

This session explained how the Language Council of Sweden gives advice by telephone, e-mail, Facebook and Twitter in questions on correct language use; grammar, style, vocabulary, and so on.
The view on what is right and wrong is today less normative, prescriptive and more descriptive, informative compared with some decades ago.
This session asked interesting questions such as ‘How do we discuss and argue when we answer?’ It also asked participants how they would answer questions.

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The mobile future: plain language on a mobile web
Dr. Neil James, Executive Director of the Plain Language Foundation Australia
Conference Room, Basement

Dr James’s session vividly described the speed at which our world is going mobile. He told us that in 2014, global mobile data traffic grew almost 70% to a level 30 times larger than the entire Internet for the year 2000. His point? Communication has a mobile future, and it is growing fast through a diverse range of small screens.
Dr James’s presentation briefly reviewed these fascinating mobile trends, updated with the latest reports from researchers such as Cisco and KPCB. He also explored three key questions:
• How will current documents and channels change with the mobile web?
• How might plain language principles and guidelines need to evolve?
• How should plain language position itself in the mobile future?

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Skills in plain language writing:

Repurposing lengthy FAQs into useful content
Kathryn Catania, Co-Chair, U.S. Plain Language Action and Information Network
Presidents, 1st Floor

Kathryn spoke about how we’ve all encountered a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that cause more harm than good. And how, instead of finding your answer, you leave with even more questions! This session briefly discussed and showcased some questions and answers before they had been written in plain language – and after. The difference was stark. Participants also got the chance to repurpose unwieldy FAQs into more user-friendly format.

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Improving the linguistic quality in emails at Statistics Sweden
Karin Hansson, Statistics Sweden
Presidents, 1st Floor

This session presented and discussed a case study of plain language training for a group of about 10 people who reply to questions about statistics from the general public, journalists and professionals. The training focused on helping the group write more complete and helpful replies while letting training participants discover for themselves what needed to change and then form their own guidelines that everyone in the group agreed on. Always a good idea!
The presentation shared the result of a follow-up study of the training which indicated that the training has had some effect, but some problems remain.

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Becoming a plain language organisation:

Risky business: Clear communication in Canadian life and health insurance.
Erica Hiemstra, Director, Distribution and Consumer Affairs,
Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Inc. (CLHIA)
Rae Sands, Assistant Vice-President and Senior Counsel, Sun Life Financial
La Touche Room, Ground Floor

The context for this well-received session was the fact that for many years, people worked on clear communication initiatives in the Canadian life and health insurance industry at an individual level. They understood the value of clear communication to their clients, but in the absence of corporate or government direction, struggled to make it resonate with their colleagues. For the most part, these clear communication champions worked in isolation.
All of that changed in December 2010, when Canada’s Task Force on Financial Literacy released its report, Canadians and their money. The report put the spotlight on the link between clear communication and financial literacy. It also singled out financial industry consumer documents, including life insurance policies, for their lack of clarity.

Rather than wait for the government to tell us what to do, the life and health insurance industry chose to take action through our industry association. We developed clear communication resource materials for the industry, held education seminars, launched a newsletter, and more.
Conference participants heard about the story of this industry’s work in the area of clear communication — what is being done, how it is being done, who they are doing it for, how success is measured success, and plans for the future. This session provided a very valuable learning opportunity that showed participants how to connect the experts and build consensus in a highly competitive industry and how to provide clear communication resources that resonate with relevant audiences.

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Advocating for plain legal language:

Why Use 50,000 Words When 500 Will Do
Sarah Fox, Speaker, lawyer, trainer, author of 500-word contract 500 Words Ltd
Talbot Room, 1st Floor

In this session, Sarah Fox, considered how the construction industry faces a trio of problems storing up disasters waiting to happen. The standard form contracts are no longer fit for purpose; there is increasing legislative and regulatory interference; and client expectations have never been higher.
Many standard form UK construction contracts are wordy, complex and full of jargon. The proportion of construction projects that end in disputes has remained remarkably steady, despite regular revisions of those standard forms. Sarah explained how users are faced with a bewildering array of choice, choosing options within options, and ‘standard’ clauses are subjected to constant tinkering by the legal profession.

Participants heard about:

• Why disputes arise on construction contracts globally;
• How current forms create economic inefficiencies from reviewing, negotiating and amending terms and conditions; and
•An interesting and new way of creating understanding and trust at the start of the project.

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Best practices in plain language and adult literacy:

Help me read: Using reading strategies as a guide for clear language writing
Diana Twiss, Director, Adult and Workplace Learning, Decoda Literacy Solutions
Room D104, Ground Floor

Understanding how people read, what helps or hinders comprehension, helps us write clearly and effectively for our target audience. In this session, Diana looked at the reading skills and strategies of fluent readers. She also showed samples of clearly written and accessible PLEI to see how they model these effective strategies particularly for readers whose skills are developing. An interesting session.

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Concurrent Sessions 13.45 – 14.45


Clear Writing Coaching
Dominique Joseph, Translator, Clear communication specialist
Alex McCafferty, Independent trainer and editor
Heather Walsh, Senior Instructor, IB Learning
Conference Room, Basement

This session was a starting point in extending plain English beyond the training room walls into the wider organisation by showing that documents are not ‘written’ by staff and ‘corrected’ by management but rather the result of an intelligent collaborative process.
This well-attended and lively session involved another collaborative process, as participants went beyond their own classroom walls and shared with other trainers their tips, concerns and lessons learned

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Evaluating clarity:

Using Graphics Effectively Online
Nad Rosenberg, President, TechWRITE, Inc.
Presidents, 1st Floor

This presentation covered the basic principles of creating or selecting visuals (images, animations and layout) that make presentations and e-learning courses more engaging and easier to understand. It also provided numerous examples and gave participants real-world suggestions for choosing effective visuals.

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Improving graphic sign language using a word grammar
Dr Leonard Verhoef, Cognitive Psychologial Designer
Presidents, 1st Floor

This session discussed how the grammar for word languages is more or less universal and describes how to design a correct and efficient word sentence. So, in this session, Dr Verhoef posed and discussed three questions: Is a word grammar applicable for a visual sign language? When the answer is yes, the next question would be: Does the application of word grammar rules, improve sign understanding? When the answer is yes, the next question would be: What is wrong with today’s sign design?

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Best Practices:

How Malaysians view plain English and what we do about it
Hasina Yasmin Abdullah, Instructor/ Learning Specialist
La Touche Room, Ground Floor

Yasmin gave an insightful overview into how Malaysians view learning English. They view it differently from people in developed countries. They have an active opposition to the language and English is a second, third or fourth language for most Malaysians. Businesses also have a different requirement for their adult staff to improve their use of English.
Yasmin explained that plain English provides a unique answer to these issues which she and her colleagues have found adds value to an organization. She explained how they teach plain English as a second language to working adults and shared her experience of promoting and teaching plain English in an Asian context. She took participants on a truly Asian journey!

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Making public texts clearer. General principles and experiences of implementation from a project with the City of Graz, Austria.
Rudolf Muhr, Professor at University of Graz, Head of Austrian German Research Centre
La Touche Room, Ground Floor

The presentation presented the result of a large scale project with the City of Graz that “” (Plain Language Austria) is currently involved in. A large number of texts of different content and with different intentions were rewritten. They included: Dunning letters, information sheets, internet texts, and so on in areas like health services, kindergarten, primary school, child care, services for people with special needs.

Rudolf reported that he and his colleagues found that it was necessary to use different strategies that are adapted to different text types. He also told about how, having rewritten the text, didn’t necessarily mean that the text was accepted by the client(s). Rudolf spoke about all this and the central principles that (at least in our case) made the project a success.

Becoming a plain language organisation:

Plain Language Culture: A Tale of Two Countries and More…Becoming a plain language organisation and sustaining good practice
Susan Kleimann, Ph.D (chair the panel-audience discussions), President, Kleimann Communication Group, Chair, Center for Plain Language
Karen Baker, Vice President, Mission Initiatives, Healthwise

Lynda Harris, Chief Executive, Write Limited
Talbot Room, 1st Floor

Presenters in this session showed how it’s one thing to get your organization to embrace plain language and say that it is important, but it is quite another to build the skillset, communicate and realize the value, and fuel the passion across your business or agency. Participants in this interesting and interactive session learned:
• How to create and embed plain language in big organizations and small ones (even non-profits)
• How to make plain language part of your brand and how to make the practice of clear communication fun and financially rewarding

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Easy to Read:

Finish Easy-to-Read pamphlets about social benefits
Solveig Arle, Editor, LL-Center
Room D104, Ground Floor

In this session, Solveig explained that Easy-to-Read writing is guided by rules concerning not only the written text but also pictures, design and typography. She identified the core specific traits of this type of writing in terms of length, content, word use and layout of text.
Solveig explained that Easy-to-Read is easier than standard language and plain language, and reaches people who are likely to be excluded in society: senior citizens, immigrants, inexperienced readers, people with learning or reading difficulties, a developmental disability, and so on.

Solveig spoke about Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, and how it is, since 2010, printing some Easy-to-Read leaflets (previously it printed very few). These leaflets now have to contain general information, and parts of them might be better described as plain language. Solveig explained the benefits of Easy-to-Read documents and provided two different models of Easy-to-Read design. Very engaging.

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Easy to Read:

Easy-to-Read – to enhance participation for all
Ulla Bohmann, Communication Officer and Pedagogue, Swedish Agency for Accessible Media, MTM
Room D104, Ground Floor

All people, regardless of reading skills, have the right to participate in society and have access to information. For people with low reading skills it is crucial that information is easy to find, easy to read and easy to understand. This session covered the basics of Easy-to-Read and gave examples on how Easy-to-Read initiatives in Sweden and Finland enable more people to participate in decisions regarding their own lives, welfare and public elections. Participants took a lot from this well presented session.

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Concurrent Sessions 14.45 – 15.45

The Legal Dilemma:

Report from a plain language project
Dr. Karsten Pedersen, Associate Professor, Ph.D, Roskilde University
Conference Room, Basement

In 2014 the municipality of Stevns in Denmark carried out a pilot project to initiate a plain language initiative covering the entire municipality. The pilot involved a small section of Social Services and dealt with the reformulation of a series of letters. A working group examined the letters that they send out to citizens in order to edit them to plain language principles. Dr Pedersen studied the group and noted that one of the biggest challenges was how to make sure to address legal matters properly.

Dr Pedersen’s presentation focused on how the group included legal matters in the new letters, and how the pilot project group involved legal advice in their considerations. He also discussed how and when to introduce legal advice in the letter editing process, drawing on the experiences of the group members as reflected in the discussions in the group and in the interviews with group members. This was an important project which showed the value of timing and careful collaboration in achieving plain language.

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The Layperson in Legal Land: Effective Plain Language Writing for Court
Matthew Philion, Attorney, Philion Law LLC
Conference Room, Basement

Participants learned some background information about the guardian ad litem (GAL) programme in the state of Minnesota, USA. The GAL works primarily in juvenile protection and family court cases in which there is a question about the safety of children. The presentation discussed some of the unique challenges of working in a legal environment when many GAL have no legal training: using plain language can help the GAL to stand apart from other professionals involved in these court processes, due to the clarity and directness resulting from a plain-language approach.
Participants left with useful tips for plain-language report writing, including ways in which many documents can benefit from plain-language techniques.

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Evalualting Clarity:

Successful user experience: strategy and roadmaps
Eliabeth Rosenzweig, Principal Consultant and Adjunct Faculty, Bentley User Experience Center, Bentley University
Presidents, 1st Floor

Properly designed technology starts with a deep understanding of the person using it. A good user experience is a key element in creating a successful product, service or document. Elizabeth presented strategies from her new book that integrates product team goal setting with user needs and goals. This strategy provides actionable steps to create and implement innovative user experiences by getting buy-in from key stakeholders at project inception. The result is a wider adoption of user experience tools as a key component of product development. Please see Elizabeth’s presentation for more information on this session.

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Information Design:

Goldfish, Clear Communications and LUNAtics?
Robert Linsky, Director of Information Design, NEPS
La Touche Room, Ground Floor

What do goldfish have to do with clear communications?

LUNA is the methodology for designing information to ensure clear communications. Using examples, Robert skillfully demonstrated how Locate/Understand/Act is an effective process to create clear communications. LUNA incorporates the best practices and principles information design, plain language, typography, graphic design, analysis, psychology, stakeholders and usability testing. Learn why communications fail if they do not meet ALL three requirements of LUNA and why he is a LUNAtic!

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Making health research make sense
Dr. Janice Mann, Knowledge Mobilization Officer, CADTH
Talbot Room, 1st Floor

Dr Mann, explained how in health and medical research, we become so accustomed to the jargon and technical language of our work that we expect everyone to understand it. But…they don’t. Together, under Dr Mann’s skillful guidance, participants explored why health research doesn’t always make sense, why it is important to make sense of it, and what we as plain language practitioners can do to make health research make sense for everyone.

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Using information design and typography to intervene in an imperfect system
Sandra Gabriele, Associate Professor & Chair, Department of Design, School of Arts, Media Performance and Design York University
Talbot Room, 1st Floor

Sandra’s presentation explained how errors often occur during the administration of medications. And, while patient safety is a top priority for nursing and pharmacy staff, the complex healthcare system in which they work, at times, falls short in supporting their tasks. The lack of clear and accessible language and more specifically mix-ups due to drugs with similar looking names (orthographic and phonographic similarities) is hugely problematic. Sandra presented compelling research findings that showed just how problematic these issues were.
Sandra showed how information design and typography might help mitigate medication errors. She also showed the influence of design choices, and specifically typographic variations, on word recognition. She argued that nurses may benefit from more exposure to look-alike medication in their education and called for recognition of testing the recognition of medicines with appropriate user groups while performing tasks that reflect their practices.

Conversations with Authors:

Talbot Room, 1st Floor

The “Dictionary of differences in legal terminology Austria-Germany”: Terminological differences in pluricentric languages and their relevance for Plain language.
Rudolf Muhr, Professor at University of Graz, Head of Austrian German Research Centre

The presentation introduced the newly published “Dictionary of differences in legal terminology Austria-Germany” which comprises 4000 Austrian and German legal terms (and their equivalents in English and German) showing differences in form and/or content. These differences can cause serious misunderstandings in communication across different nations sharing the same language.

Plain-Language Handbook for Legal Writers
Christine Mowat, Founder and Past President, Wordsmith Associates Communications Consultants
Past Chair, Plain Language Association InterNational (PLAIN)

This presentation focused on (i) the perhaps surprising audiences and purposes for the A Plain-Language Handbook for Legal Writers (ii) brief summaries of six new chapters and why they arose, and (iii) three most unusual plain-language documents from Volume 2’s models and examples. One is written by a judge, another by an Inuit government department, and the last, with a permission-to-use (and tailor) to a reader’s needs, by a plain-language specialist and an expert wills lawyer.

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Solving the Grammar Dilemma
Marie Antaya, Director, Eclectic Communications

Grown from a request of our workshop participants, we have compiled the writing concepts we teach into a book format. Solving the Grammar Dilemma is the first of a five-book series. Each of these reference books focuses on a particular aspect of business writing and complements the skills being taught in our workshops. In this book, you’ll find information, tips, samples and exercises related to capitalization, numbers, punctuation, apostrophes, pronouns, parallel structure and agreement.

Rewrite – How to overcome daily sabotage of your brand and profit
Lynda Harris, Chief Executive, Write Limited


Rewrite is a one-of-a-kind book that highlights the tremendous cost of bad writing in business and government – and offers practical solutions for change.
Drawing on years of commercial experience, Lynda Harris (New Zealand) and her colleagues have produced a handbook for improving bottom-line results by changing the way writers think. Rewrite proves the point that almost anyone with vision, determination, and a proven system can transform the way their organisation communicates.
CEOs, managers, plain language practitioners – anyone who understands the price of words – will immediately grasp the value of the lessons offered in Rewrite.

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Writing for dollars, writing to please
Professor Joseph Kimble, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Western Michigan University, Cooley Law School

Professor Kimble presented his book which is a collection of empirical evidence for the value of plain language in business, government, law. This unique book summarises 50 studies showing that using plain language can save organisations and agencies a ton of money and that plain language serves and satisfied readers in every possible way. They strongly prefer it to legalese and officialese, they understand it better and faster, they are more likely to comply with it, and they are more likely to read it in the first place.

A comprehensive model for comprehensible knowledge communication
Dr Benedikt Lutz, Course director – Center for cognition, information and management, Donau-Universität Krems

Benedickt presented his book which has an interesting model for the production, analysis and optimization of knowledge communication – relevant to people who are interested in comprehensible written texts.

This model is based on a linguistic analysis, but considers also insights from technical writing, information design, cognitive science and usability engineering.
It consists on the one side of general conditions (only partly controllable by the communicators, shown as clouds in the figure enclosed): communicative goals, situation, modality and medium, text type, linguistic competence, prior knowledge and cognition. On the other side, the model distinguishes between eight dimensions of comprehensibility (criteria and options for shaping the text, shown as ellipses): complexity (content) and complicatedness (form), structure, correctness, motivation, distinctness, brevity and usability.

Oxford Guide to Plain English
Martin Cutts, Director, Plain Language Commission

‘The Oxford Guide to Plain English’, the fourth edition of which came out in 2013. The book sets out 25 guidelines on writing and designing documents for the public, and has become reasonably well known in the field. It draws on my experience of working as an editor and trainer in plain language and related disciplines since the mid-1970s.

Using plain language to protect consumers 16.00 – 17.00

Conference Room

Colm Kincaid, Head of the Consumer Protection Division, The Central Bank of Ireland

Colm gave a brief outline of the Central Bank’s Revised Consumer Protection Code (2012) and its requirements in terms of plain language. He explained that while plain language guidelines and testing are encouraged much more needs to be done to promote the use of plain language.

You can read Colm’s informative and honest speech here.

Read Here

Closing Address 16.30 – 17.00

Conference Room

Inez Bailey, National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA)