This blog shares some of our thoughts about plain language, and the latest discussions about plain English and clear design in New Zealand, and around the world.

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16 December 2010

Two rants about language

For us, Stephen Fry’s rant about language is bittersweet, but too good to not share. Entertaining, clever, painful. Honestly, Stephen, we love language too.

And what it comes down to, as he says, is ‘context, convention and circumstance are all’.

What do you think? We’d love to hear.

Watch Stephen Fry

This guy has been bugged by English spelling all his life. And it’s a long life…

Watch Ed Ronthaler

14 December 2010

Talking about 'Writing the Future'

We were thrilled to take part in the ‘Writing the Future’ colloquium on 2 and 3 December 2010. The colloquium drew together a wide range of people involved with teaching writing in the tertiary education sector, along with a few of us from the public and private sectors.

Mary McLaughlin attended the whole conference, and other Write people staffed a stall at the venue. Duncan Sarkies was also there, and presented a paper on the creative writing process. For all of us, it was a great opportunity to meet peers, gather ideas, and share perspectives.

The range of papers was terrific, with five keynote papers and 17 parallel sessions over the 2 days. Some particular highlights for us were:
• Gregory O’Brien on the relationships between poetry, art, art criticism, and non-fiction
• Natalie Savery on supporting dyslexic students’ academic writing in tertiary classes
• Elizabeth Gray on the intersections between creative and professional writing
• Peter Wood on being an academic writing on architecture for a public audience
• Polly Kobleva on marking as a writing process
• Anna Taylor on the art and craft of writing.

And as with all great conferences, we enjoyed the thoughtful organisation, good food, and the friendly, collegial atmosphere. Thanks to the Tertiary Writing Network for running such a successful event.

‘Not just words’ — Mary sums up her paper on document design and plain English
In the paper, I’ve talked largely about plain English and design in terms of function — in terms of how they work. I’ve looked at questions like:
• does this document work well for the reader?
• can the reader use the form?
• are language and design working together to help the reader get the main messages?

But at its best, plain English does more than work well. It appeals to the senses and the mind, to our human desires for simplicity, grace, elegance, space. And I believe that when we focus on design as part of the way we communicate, it brings home to us the aesthetic value of clear, precise writing. It reminds us that we don’t just want to convey a message; we want our readers to feel refreshed, calm, cared for. We want our readers to savour our words … and the forms in which we present them.

English: you're doing it wrong

'A brisk run around the city gives me plenty of time to spot apostrophe misuse on signs everywhere,' says Ann Aitken Worth on her Stuff blog. Smitten by the same obsession with bad punctuation, we loved what Ann had to say. And we enjoyed comment number 6 too!

Read English: you're doing it wrong

03 December 2010

Better not read this if you're a vampire

Sandra Fisher-Martins is at it again. This time she's found a great article about information design and blood test results. Take a look -- you'll be inspired to ask for clearly presented lab reports next time you go to the doctor.

02 December 2010

Wellington, sun, and fun: Wellington love letter

It’s nearly Christmas, so Helen decided it was time to blog a fun spot. She says:
I’ve been tootling (there’s a Helenism!) about on Twitter for the last few months getting to grips with how it works—partly for fun and partly for Write.

This clip, Wellington love letter, was first tweeted about roughly a month ago. It’s now had more than 41,000 hits. The power of social media—enjoy!

01 December 2010

Writing the future

We're looking forward to being part of the Tertiary Writing Network's 'Writing the Future' colloquium later this week. The colloquium will be held at Victoria University, Pipitea Campus, on 2-3 December 2010.

Mary McLaughlin will be presenting a paper titled 'Not just words: document design and the plain English of the future'. We'll also have a stall at the colloquium, so if you're there too, stop and say 'hi'.

Check back next week and we'll let you know how the colloquium went.

You can find out more about the colloquium at: