Why I signed up to PlainLanguagePro

Like most people in business, I get a seemingly endless trail of messages from people offering to save me money, make me more money, improve my skills, create new networks, re-energise my life, sell me something I can’t live without, help me find happiness, help me work smarter, or help me find my inner core. The messages sell books, workshops, seminars, think tanks, investment opportunities, revolutionary new approaches to marketing, foolproof ways to find new clients, and on and on and on. They’re all designed to separate me from my money, my time, and my confidence.

In my experience, these messages are rarely worth the effort of opening. My habit is to scan email subject lines fast, with a trigger finger on the delete key.

But a few weeks ago, I opened one of those selling messages. I read, did some research, and signed up. I’m now a registered Plain Language Certifier with PlainLanguagePro. 

PlainLanguagePro is a newcomer in the Australian market. It’s designed to provide an independent assessment that a document has been written with readers’ needs in mind – much like the Crystal Mark from the UK-based Plain English Campaign.

I signed up for PlainLanguagePro because I’m keen to do what I can to promote plain language within Australian workplaces. While my work won’t change, I’m now able to offer a recognised certification process for my clients.

The value of plain language certification is that it’s an independent assessment of your efforts to make your documents readable and accessible. It demonstrates care for readers and a genuine effort to be understood – and this could have important implications for client credibility and risk assessment.

We all know that workplace documents should be easy for readers to use. We read them for work, not fun. Most of the time, readers want to read quickly, understand, and then take some action. But all too often, workplace documents simply confuse: they irritate clients, waste time, cost money, and, at their worst, lead to negative publicity and legal complications.

The PlainLanguagePro system provides three levels of document certification, and documents meeting the standards can display a certification mark.

  • BRONZE-Level Certification provides evidence that you’ve used plain language techniques in writing and designing the document. It shows that your document is likely to be easily understood by its intended readers. This level of certification focuses on the way the text is written.
  • SILVER-Level Certification confirms that the document has been written from the perspective of readers and based on reader research. This level of certification combines research about readers’ needs with the principles of plain language.
  • GOLD-Level Certification confirms that the document has been developed and tested with readers. This level of certification focuses on the overall effectiveness of the document and measures its success with readers.

Now, I understand that receiving a plain language certification doesn’t guarantee your document is sound and doesn’t ensure all readers will understand. But it’s a step in the right direction. It shows you’ve got your readers’ interests at heart. And it shows you’ve been systematic about the document’s production.

I’m a Gold-Level certifier with PlainLanguageP ro, so I can offer all three levels of certification. It’s a fee-based service, and it would be nice if the system generates me some income. But that’s not my main motivation. I genuinely hope that PlainLanguagePro will become a recognised standard for Australian documents and that, in applying the certification mark, we’ll achieve a shift toward more plain language and less obfuscation.

More information about my plain language certification services is available at the Information Design Centre website. And more information about PlainLanguagePro is available at the PlainLanguagePro website