Key Advice Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Plain Language

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Posted on: 20/02/2012

Canada’s Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ online surveillance Bill C30 has been lifted from parliamentary discussions and shot into the social media sphere with support from Vikileaks, Twitter and blogs. Who’s right or wrong may take some time to answer, but people are wanting answers now about the effects of social media on politics.

Social media research is a relatively new field. Melissa Martin’s column in The Winnipeg Free Press Voting with your tweet? Toews’ Twitter flap may show social media as new grassroots political force highlights some US research into the new media getting up-close-and-personal with politics. Heather LaMarre, a professor at the University of Minnesota, has been researching the ‘off-line’ effects of ‘online’ social media movements. The jury is still out – but research shows they are having an impact.

Martin’s refers to the academic lingo for this movement – ‘intermedia agenda-setting’ – then translates to ‘plain speak’ -meaning politicians listening via traditional media. Going one step farther, in plain language, the voice of the masses on social media are not only being heard, they are being sought out.  The translation, on the surface, is simple and clear. They are sending out strong waves of public sentiment that can not only alter, but bring down, political decisions, officials and parties.

Grassroots movements are growing like weeds on the Web. Attempts to squash them, will be a bit like trying to control dandelions by hand-picking them. For every one eliminated, a new one seems to grow in its place.

CBC’s Community Team discussion ‘Should the controversial surveillance bill be scrapped?‘ is gaining some momentum, driven by the force of public and social media rejection of the bill and concern over its extensive reach into their lives. When the minister supporting a bill that has potential to infringe on its citizens’ privacy, personal communications and online presence isn’t aware of the Bill’s small print, it is time for a stop and think session.

What do you think?

Social media surveillance exposes Bill C30

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After the global success of International Plain Language Day 2011, the plans for an even greater event are officially underway for IPLDay 2012 october 13. If you have plain language ideas, expertise or stories to tell, IPLDay 2012 has incorporated  SlideShare and YouTube presentation options. Local events will also be organized.

IPDay has a blog set up to give you all the details in one place. As co-organizer with Cheryl Stephens, we feel sharing our commitment to plain language on new and social media platforms will help spread the work, and keep it on the world’s agenda.

Here is how you can support and share information about IPLDay 2012.

LinkedIn – Plain Language Advocates and IPLDay sub group

Facebook – Page

Twitter – #iplday

Spread the word.

 

International Plain Language Day (IPLD) October 13, 2011 is gaining global support from plain language professionals in Sweden, the UK, Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, India, and Africa.Events and contests are being planned in various localities.

So far, we know of these plans for IPLD:

In South Africa, a social media meme for the worst example of gobbledygook.

In Calgary Alberta Canada, a petition campaign on City Hall steps to have IPLD declared by the city for 2012.

In Atlanta Georgia, another contest for an example of the worst government writing.

In Ottawa Canada, a celebratory luncheon.

In Washington DC, a workshop for government writers.

“The movement for plain language is really growing. For example, LinkedIn’s Plain Language Advocates Group I host is nearing 800 international members.” said Cheryl Stephens, a leader in the movement and an expert in plain legal language, “From October 13, U.S. government materials written for the public must be in plain language.We’ve chosen this date to celebrate hard-won achievements in many countries who are making materials understandable and usable.”

“Plain Language” is the design of clear information focused on the reader, to fit the reader’s information needs and reading abilities.

“Cheryl Stephens and I started the international plain language network and conferencing in the early 90s using only email and web pages,” said Kate Harrison Whiteside, a social media and plain language consultant. “For IPLD we are using all the social technology available to get world-wide support for this important day.”

The health, legal, government, banking, social, education and business sectors around the world are all making progress in recognizing the need and the demand for plain language, and putting it on their agendas.

“We need to keep raising the demand for plain language from the public,” said Stephens. “Plain language is now recognized world-wide; the next step is to have it integrated into all communication training and delivery. The importance of communicating clearly to our audience is ever greater.”

On October 13, 2011, people and organizations will be hosting events online, in offices, and on the streets to mark their support for putting readers first in communication by using plain language.

Contacts

Cheryl Stephens, plainlanguage.com

email@cherylstephens.com 1-604- 802-9606

Kate Harrison Whiteside, keyadvice.net

kate@keyadvice.net 1-587-896-5377

International Plain Language Day Links 

IPLD Facebook Page

Twitter – #iplday

LinkedIn – Plain Language Advocates – IPLD

 


Plain language and social media may appear to have a lot in common. They promote conciseness, usability and targeting messages to your audiences. But is there more than just a communications bond between them?

Plain Language spent the early part of this century doing what it did best – print content. But, the movement is gaining momentum when it comes to content we put on websites, in blogs, and on social media platforms. CommonCraft’s Social Media in Plain Language videos have shown great SEO and popularity – although they could benefit from an updated sequel version. However, while many of us continue to use print to get our plain language message across – the power of video (done well) and other social media platforms can’t be ignored.

Emerging Technologies Librarian is just one site blogging about the new Plain Language Medical iPhone App. It takes medical terms and translates them into plain language at the click of a button. This demonstrates how the power of plain language and social media can really have a cultural impact on critical communications. How long before other sectors follow?

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block for achieving a stronger connection is the bad publicity plain language government plans get – promising plain language, but not delivering. Social Media Strategery blogger Steve Raddick, gives a history of US government attempts to get beyond stage one. City of Calgary Alderwoman Druh Farrell has council support for reviving their earlier plain language commitment, which Literacy Alberta executive director Janet Lane whole-heartedly supported via their Facebook Page.  The movement may seem slow, but once it gets to the next stage, it will be brilliant.

The power is in the synergy of the two: using plain language on social media platforms and social media platforms to promote plain language. Both will help us move both to ‘higher ground’.

Check Out: International Plain Language Day plans on Facebook.

Plain Language on websites, apps, platforms is all about usability. The Plain Language movement – which has been active around the globe for some time now – traditionally focused on the print medium. But, over the last few years a number of resources have popped up that target online communications. Here are three articles and three links to help you successfully integrate plain language into your online projects.

The web technology has moved on from websites to apps and mobile platforms. ClickZ recently ran an article by Melinda Krueger – ‘Jakob Nielsen on Usability for Mobile Sites and Apps. Nielsen said the technology must be easy to touch and manipulate – as users are most often multi-tasking. And, short is not good enough – content must be ‘ultra-short’. Melinda’s article is a good overview, and a good place to build a plain language web assessment plan from.

If you are starting out on a website, or want to see if yours meets plain language guidelines, take a look at the PlainLanguage.gov site’s Planning a Plain Language Website section. They demonstrate what they recommend – so you can have a textual and a visual guide.

On the Results for Canadians blog, Laura’s recent article ‘Measuring plain language on the web’ highlights important aspects, and provides excellent links. Yes, it’s all about  users being able to ‘find, understand and act’ when on a website, but she recommends testing for ‘findability’ as well as usability.

A Google search for plain language on the Web turned up a few resources, with many published before 2,000. Let’s get website plain language back on the table. We need to move faster to keep up with technology.

Key Resources

Book: Plain Language Websites, Plain Language Wizardry.

LinkedIn Plain Language Advocates Group – discussing the creation of Plain Language Day.

PLAIN – Plain Language Association INternational

Today is World Usability Day and this year’s theme is communication. In the spirit of that, let’s all think, talk, write, blog, tweet, post in Plain Language.

Using clear communications is a key component of communications strategy. It can help your business stand out from – above – the rest. Plain Language is proven to help reduce situations – repeated errors, questions or production – that can be costly. Plain Language in Plain English, part of the Wizardry Series, gives examples of this.

Organisations are celebration WUD all over the world with events – virtual and live. User Vision, whose website holds this quote:

‘The cost of a complete site overhaul is roughly thirty times that of incorporating usability testing early on.’ Forrester Research Group, Why most web sites fail, 2006.

, are holding a session on usability in modern-day communications.

In Oslo, Norway, The Norwegian Design Council is hosting an online event exploring usability in web design showing the film Innovation for All.

There’s something for everyone – all around the globe from New York to  South Africa to Tokyo. What will you be doing? Post your feedback, link or ideas in Comment.

Twitter.com/wud_2010

We are nearly at the longest day of the year, and for many it may be long past the time when they should give their web sites an assessment and refresh. It may be a bit like not being able to see the forest for the trees. The best way to get good quality perspective and advice is secure the services of a professional web editor to give you fresh insights. But, whether you are doing it yourself, or drawing up a plan for your advisor to follow, these ten items provide a great guide.

Key Advice’s Top Ten Website Assessment Criteria

1. Effective navigation
2. Efficient – fast links
3. Engaging – look and content
4. E-commerce – functional
5. Encourages interactivity
6. Easy access for all
7. E-branding – strong consistent
8. Expectations met
9. Easy to learn – for admins and users
10. E- media – social, video, audio, pics galleries

A good website assessment involves technical assessment, user surveys and comparison data with similar sites. It looks at all the site design and content management platforms available. Budgets and human resources are evaluated. Then it is all mixed together and a strategy developed. Taking the time to ask users is so valuable. They see the trees and the forest. It’s important to think of website visitors as clients – even if you may not see them face-to-face.

Integrating social media  is a must. Read Top Tips blog highlighting top recommendations made at the 21st Century Communications master class last week, featuring Enterprise Nation’s Emma Jones. Social media is now mainstream marketing – as important as a website itself.

Don’t forget to consult the World Wide Web Consortium, W3C, for tips and tools to make sure your website meets universal accessibility standards. One of the most important, and often looked over or given minor emphasis,  is putting your content in plain language to make sure users understand.

Yes, it’s a jungle out there. But like an adventurer, having a mapped out plan is critical. Consulting experts, who have been there before, can generate some excellent tips. And, taking it one step at a time, can help you enjoy the experience and get positive feedback from users. After all, that’s who we are going through this for!


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