About

The PlainLanguagePro certification trademarks promote the use of plain language principles and processes in business and government documents. (the term ‘Plain Language’ is preferred over the term ‘Plain English’ as it covers a wider range of techniques and practices[1].)

PlainLanguagePro certification trademarks allow authorised plain language professionals to apply a mark to the documents they write. This sets the document apart from other documents. The mark shows the document (printed or electronic) has been produced by a plain language professional using a plain language process.

For document users (the public or specialised audiences), a PlainLanguagePro certification trademark provides confidence. They can be confident the document has been prepared with care and taken their needs and preferences into account. These documents are likely to be easy for users to read and understand.

For plain language professionals, becoming a PlainLanguagePro certifier distinguishes them from other writers. It provides another way to promote their skills and processes when preparing documents.

For document owners, PlainLanguagePro certification trademarks increases confidence that documents will communicate effectively and deliver the intended message to the user.
PlainLanguagePro certification trademarks may also provide document owners with a potential defence against a charge of ‘reckless writing[2]’ and related legal action.

The PlainLanguagePro certification trademark processes are largely peer based. Plain language professionals exercise judgement to assess their peers and the documents they produce against the objective PlainLanguagePro standards. In this way, the community of plain language professionals becomes jointly responsible for maintaining and upholding the standards. Over time, we expect to see a general uplift of practice as plain language professionals are exposed to the work of their peers.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) assessment.

A plain language standard benefits the community

There is a growing body of hard evidence demonstrating that using plain language makes documents more understandable. Plain language reduces the risk of miscommunication and misunderstanding. It reduces the time taken to read and understand documents.

The worldwide plain language movement has been saying for decades that merely providing a document that is complete and accurate is insufficient. Information must be written clearly and concisely – and in a way that the majority of users can comprehend it quickly. Users should both understand the information and know what to do with it. An effective document takes readers’ needs and preferences into account rather than being solely focused on what the writer wishes to say.

Increasingly, people, especially consumers of financial services, are complaining that they didn’t understand a critical document. Often this is because the document has been poorly structured and written. Important information is often buried in a lengthy document, and the style of writing makes it difficult to extract meaning. This disadvantages readers, especially less able readers.

A number of government bodies and law makers prefer to write in plain language. For example,

In Australia, the Office of Parliamentary Counsel has been active in encouraging the use of plain language in legislation and in developing and using plain language techniques.

…, we have incorporated plain language drafting into all of our work. ….

Many organisations claim to produce documents in plain language. But merely having the words ‘plain language’ in a document title does not guarantee the document has been plainly written. It does not guarantee easy reading or an appropriate focus on the needs and desires of the users.

[1] Australian Government: Office of Parliamentary Counsel. http://www.opc.gov.au/plain/index.htm

[2] ‘Reckless writing’ refers to preparing a document without exercising a deliberate and considered concern for the intended reader, or class of readers, or a writer failing to apply their mind to consider how the document will be understood.

 

Understanding the standards

The PlainLanguagPro series of certification trademarks is owned by Think-write Pty Ltd.

IP Australia trademark number 1803065.