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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27 October 2011

Beating dyslexia — one character at a time

Dutch researcher Christian Boer has designed a new font, 'Dyslexie', to make it easier for people with dyslexia to read.

The font uses several features that make it less likely that characters will appear jumbled or reversed.

Read more about it in this Scientific American article:
Bold Stroke: New Font Helps Dyslexics Read — you can even read the article itself in the new font!

18 October 2011

Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance

I love this piece by American author Daniel Handler, written under his pen-name Lemony Snicket.
My personal favourite:
3. Money is like a child — rarely unaccompanied. When it disappears, look to those who were supposed to be keeping an eye on it while you were at the grocery store. You might also look for someone who has a lot of extra children sitting around, with long, suspicious explanations for how they got there.

14 October 2011

Health literacy - new definition, new skills

October is Health Literacy Month.

So what is health literacy? The ground is already shifting in this relatively new discipline.

About 5 years ago the American Medical Association Foundation defined health literacy as:

‘the ability to read, understand and act on medical information’. The focus was on the patient and their skills.

A newer definition:

‘health literacy is the communication component of healthcare’.

The focus is shifting to the health provider.

Clinicians need to check consumer and patient understanding. ‘Have I presented the information in a way that’s easy to understand and act on?’

Rosie Knight is a plain English specialist at Write. Health literacy is one of her great interests. She has inspired a new workshop, the Health Information Lab. It offers strategies and techniques for communicating clearly about health, and checking that the consumer really knows what they need to.

Go to our website for links to more blogs about health literacy

Read about our workshop Writing Health Information Clearly

13 October 2011

Save on training, and celebrate

At Write we're making it a little easier to cut the waffle and clarify your communication.

We're offering a special price for our plain English training, just for today.

You can also get two copies of the Write Style Guide for the price of one.

The reason? It's our way of celebrating International Plain Language Day.

Read more about our specials and how to book

05 October 2011

It’s time to celebrate Plain Language Day

Make a diary note to keep things clear on Thursday 13 October — it’s International Plain Language Day.

The day marks the first anniversary of the US Plain Writing Act. It’s being celebrated globally, on the net and on the streets.

At Write Limited’s Wellington office, come and hear about literacy and editing in the future, when the printed page has been left behind by technology.

Judy Knighton, one of Write’s plain English specialists, will deliver the presentation she recently gave to editors in Australia.

What’s the role for editors now that literacy means reading a phone, sending a tweet, and downloading a podcast? Will editors have a place as new technologies multiply?

TCANZ — the Technical Communicators Association of New Zealand — is hosting the event.

Read more about ‘The transliterate scribe’ and how to attend

Read about Judy Knighton

And watch this blog for Write’s special offers to celebrate International Plain Language Day.

03 October 2011

Plain English optimisation for top search rankings

As Google's algorithms become more and more sophisticated, journalist and web editor Robert Niles suggests that it's time to forget about keywords and search engine optimisation.
...and time to focus instead on PEO [Plain English Optimisation].
Too many writers think of SEO as writing for computers, when their real focus should be writing to meet the needs of a human audience. Ask yourself these questions whenever you write:
  • Are you writing about something that people have personal experience with or personal interest in? Can you express that audience "need" in 10 words or less? Have you done that in the story?
  • Does your article do anything to provide a practical take-away that helps readers address this need, whether it be a to-do-list (even a short one) or at least relevant, previously unknown information about the topic? Can you describe that take-away in 10 words or less? Have you done that in the story?
  • Are you writing using the words and phrases that normal readers - people who aren't your sources and co-workers - use when they talk about this topic? Are you using the vocabulary of a 10th grader, or a 10-year professional in the field?
  • Describe your piece in three words. Do those three words appear in the headline, the title tag or at least within the opening paragraph? How long does the reader have to read your piece before he or she will know what you're writing about?
  • Are you drowning your reporting under too many words?