Start Your Spring Cleaning with a Plain Language Project

What to consider when planning a plain language project
by Cheryl Stephens

Keeping your project plans clear

When drafting a project plan, it is important to keep it clear, concise and coherent (logically organized) so that contributors can coordinate their efforts. Project plans succeed when there are clear instructions, visible benefits, and recorded results. Here are some tips.

Clarify your goals

Prepare the arguments for launching a plain language project. The efforts foreseen need to promise clear results. Be clear about what can be accomplished. Craft clear goals so later you can measure whether you’ve met them.

There have been reports for decades on the financial and other efficiencies of plain language. The US government published its first report in 1963 and the Canadian government in 1973.

Joseph Kimble catalogued the benefits in 2008 in Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please: The Case for Plain Language in Business, Government, and Law.

Know the benefits
Make sure you have research to support your plan’s goals and objectives.

Whether you want to reduce client queries, simplify a process or increase participation, gather some facts to motivate the team and focus the project. These will help you build commitment and meet key goals.

Sell the benefits
You may be asking contributors to communicate in a new way. People are more willing to try a different approach if they know the benefits. Plain language takes less time to write and creates happier clients. Both of these will help your writers and editors see how it can benefit them and their audiences. It’s a win-win.

Measure and share success

Plain language is an important customer service. You will want to set realistic indicators so you can measure the success. Internally, this may mean new skills for employees. Externally, this may mean happier clients. Organizationally, clear communication can make you stand out from the crowd.

It’s important to track results, share them in plain language, and use findings for future projects.

• Always check your plans are themselves plain and simple to understand.
• Focus on creating a simple timeline with tasks expressed with clarity, conciseness and coherence.
• Get staff input and feedback on the plan before its launch.

A clear project plan for your plain language program will deliver stronger, longer-lasting results that can support future projects.