Plain Language &Writing for the Web   Kate Bladow   Strategist, Powered Pursuits
What is plain language?
Clear, concise, and correct.       – Richard C. Wydick         Professor of Law Emeritus         UC Davis School of Law
Why bother?• Everyone appreciates  clarity.• You empower your  readers.• It saves time and money.• People won’t dread  rea...
Plain Writing Act of        2010The federal government must write all newpublic documents in a “clear, concise, well-organ...
As of October 13, 2011Federal executive agencies must use plainlanguage in any new document that  – is necessary for obtai...
Break It Into Pieces        Look at the big four:          – Register          – Reading interest and            persisten...
RegisterUse active voice and direct address. Use→You can find information about the laws     here. Not→Information about t...
RegisterExplain specialized terms. Ex→ A rental agreement is also called a     "lease." Ex→ A Power of Attorney for Proper...
Reading Interest &        Persistence• Put the title at the top.• Use headings.• Organize your  information.• Answer your ...
© 2008 Transcend
Visual Accessibility• Use sentence case.• Avoid text enhancers – bold, italic,  underline, strike-out, and reverse text.• ...
FontsSan Serif Fonts           Serif Fonts• Online documents        • Printed documents• Printed documents       • Paragra...
More Formatting Hints•   Use system fonts.•   Use different font sizes.•   Do not justify if it creates “rivers of white.”...
Usability• Test your document.• Test your document.• Test your document.
Process
An Example: BeforeIf the loan isn’t paid, what can a borrower do?As with any loan, it is the borrower’s choice when and  h...
An Example: BeforeMake sure all of the other checks written on the account are paid, and then close the account on the che...
An Example: AfterWhat if I cant pay my loan back?Its your choice when and how to repay your payday   loan.You dont have to...
An Example: AfterClose your checking account. Make sure any other  checks you wrote on the account are paid before you  cl...
ComparisonOriginal                RevisionCharacters: 797         Characters: 650 ↓Words: 197              Words: 161 ↓Sen...
An Example: Before     INSTRUCTIONS FOR SENDING A LETTER TO A DEBT    COLLECTOR TELLING THEM TO STOP CONTACTING YOU  On th...
An Example: Before  Below that, fill in your name as the "debtor," and the nameof the company (the "creditor") that you ow...
An Example: After                       Instructions Send a Letter to a Debt Collector to Tell Them to Stop               ...
An Example: AfterTo use this form:1.Fill out the form. ●     Fill in your address and the date on the top right side. ●   ...
An Example: After2. Copy the form.  You need to keep a copy of the filled-out letter for your  records.3. Mail the letter....
ComparisonOriginal                RevisionCharacters: 978         Characters: 934 ↓Words: 233              Words: 230 ↓Sen...
Your TurnSocial Security is a system enacted by Congressdesigned to supplement your retirement income. It isnot intended t...
A Second TimeThe earned income tax credit (EITC or EIC) is arefundable tax credit for people who work but do notearn high ...
Resources• Plain English for Lawyers  by Richard C. Wydick• The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style  by Bryan A. Garner• Lega...
Resources• Simple Words and Phrases http://www.plainlanguage.gov/howto/wordsuggestions/simplew ords.cfm• How to write Simp...
CreditsThese photos are from Flickr with CreativeCommons license.●    http://www.flickr.com/photos/-bast-/349497988/●    h...
Contact InformationKate BladowFounder & Strategist, Powered Pursuitspresentations@poweredpursuits.com
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

Plain Language & Writing for the Web

636 views

Published on

A presentation for the 2011 Virginia Annual Statewide Legal Aid Conference.

Legal aid staff are frequently asked to help draft and review materials for the state's legal information website. This presentation will look at how to write so those with limited literacy skills can better understand and use the content. We will also talk briefly about why writing other materials, like advice letters and court documents, in plain language is important for legal aid clients, judges, and other attorneys.

0 Comments
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total views
636
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
57
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
5
Comments
0
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Plain Language & Writing for the Web

  1. 1. Plain Language &Writing for the Web Kate Bladow Strategist, Powered Pursuits
  2. 2. What is plain language?
  3. 3. Clear, concise, and correct. – Richard C. Wydick Professor of Law Emeritus UC Davis School of Law
  4. 4. Why bother?• Everyone appreciates clarity.• You empower your readers.• It saves time and money.• People won’t dread reading your writing.• Plain language is a civil right.
  5. 5. Plain Writing Act of 2010The federal government must write all newpublic documents in a “clear, concise, well-organized” manner. They must use the best practices of plain language writing.
  6. 6. As of October 13, 2011Federal executive agencies must use plainlanguage in any new document that – is necessary for obtaining any federal government benefit or service or filing taxes – provides information about an federal government benefit or service, or – explains to the public how to comply with a requirement that the federal government administers or enforces
  7. 7. Break It Into Pieces Look at the big four: – Register – Reading interest and persistence – Visual accessibility – Usability
  8. 8. RegisterUse active voice and direct address. Use→You can find information about the laws here. Not→Information about the laws can be found by clicking here.Use familiar words and phrasings. Use→international Not→intercountry
  9. 9. RegisterExplain specialized terms. Ex→ A rental agreement is also called a "lease." Ex→ A Power of Attorney for Property lets someone else manage your money and property for you.Do not use foreign words, archaic, & noun-heavy phrasings. Use→methods for resolving a dispute Not→ dispute resolution methodologies
  10. 10. Reading Interest & Persistence• Put the title at the top.• Use headings.• Organize your information.• Answer your reader’s questions.• Make it short.• Chunk the text.
  11. 11. © 2008 Transcend
  12. 12. Visual Accessibility• Use sentence case.• Avoid text enhancers – bold, italic, underline, strike-out, and reverse text.• Chunk your paragraphs.• Use headings.
  13. 13. FontsSan Serif Fonts Serif Fonts• Online documents • Printed documents• Printed documents • Paragraph text• Headings• All Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese documents
  14. 14. More Formatting Hints• Use system fonts.• Use different font sizes.• Do not justify if it creates “rivers of white.”• Boxes may or may not be read.• Use columns.• Never hyphenate.• Do not double space.• Do not center paragraphs.
  15. 15. Usability• Test your document.• Test your document.• Test your document.
  16. 16. Process
  17. 17. An Example: BeforeIf the loan isn’t paid, what can a borrower do?As with any loan, it is the borrower’s choice when and how to repay a payday loan. If you are unable to repay a payday loan on time, you have choices other than letting your check to the payday lender be cashed. You also can do one or both of these things.Stop payment on your check to the payday lender. Your bank usually charges a fee of about $30 for this. A stop payment is good for six months.
  18. 18. An Example: BeforeMake sure all of the other checks written on the account are paid, and then close the account on the check which you gave to the Virginia payday lender. It is not a crime to do either of these things. You can’t be arrested for either of these things.You don’t have to pay the “bad check charge” of $250, or three times the check amount, whichever is greater. All the Virginia payday lender can do file a lawsuit against you and get a judgment for the amount of your check, a bad check fee of $25, court costs, and attorney’s fees of no more than $250.
  19. 19. An Example: AfterWhat if I cant pay my loan back?Its your choice when and how to repay your payday loan.You dont have to let the payday lender cash your check if you cant repay your payday loan on time. You have two other choices:Tell the bank not to pay your check to the payday lender. You may have to pay the bank about $30. This is good for six months.
  20. 20. An Example: AfterClose your checking account. Make sure any other checks you wrote on the account are paid before you close your account.These things are not crimes. You can’t be arrested.You don’t have to pay the “bad check charge.” (The bad check charge is $250 or three times the check amount, whichever is greater.)The payday lender can sue you. If they win, you will have to pay the amount of your check, a bad check fee of $25, court costs, and attorney’s fees of no more than $250.
  21. 21. ComparisonOriginal RevisionCharacters: 797 Characters: 650 ↓Words: 197 Words: 161 ↓Sentences: 12 Sentences: 14 ↑Chars/Word: 4.05 Chars/Word: 4.04 ↓Syllables/Word: 1.38 Syllables/Word: 1.39 ↑Words/Sentence: 16.42 Words/Sentence: 11.50 ↓Flesch Kincaid: 7.10 Flesch Kincaid: 5.31 ↓Flesch Reading Ease: Flesch Reading Ease:73.36 77.46 ↑
  22. 22. An Example: Before INSTRUCTIONS FOR SENDING A LETTER TO A DEBT COLLECTOR TELLING THEM TO STOP CONTACTING YOU On the reverse side of this page (or attached) is a formletter you may use to write a debt collector and demand thatthey stop contacting you. You should make additional copiesof the reverse side for your future use. Dont send them thispiece of paper! At the top right-hand side, write your address and the dateon the lines provided. Next, on the left-hand side, addressthe letter to the debt collector that has been contacting you.
  23. 23. An Example: Before Below that, fill in your name as the "debtor," and the nameof the company (the "creditor") that you owe the money to(not the name of the debt collection agency). Then fill in theaccount number, which you will find on any letters or noticessent to you from the debt collection agency. Finally, sign your name at the end of the letter and printyour name below it so that it can easily be read. Before you mail the letter, make a copy of the completeform on a copier machine, to keep for you records. If you canpossibly afford to, mail the letter certified mail, return receiptrequested. This way you can easily prove in court theyreceived the letter if they later contact you and you sue themfor doing so.
  24. 24. An Example: After Instructions Send a Letter to a Debt Collector to Tell Them to Stop Contacting YouThis letter tells a debt collector to stop contacting you.You may make as many copies of this form as you need.
  25. 25. An Example: AfterTo use this form:1.Fill out the form. ● Fill in your address and the date on the top right side. ● Fill in the debt collectors address on the left side. ● Fill in your name as the “debtor.” ● Fill in the creditors name. This is the name of the company that you owe money. It is not the debt collector. ● Fill in your account number. You can find this number on any letters or notices the debt collector sent you. ● Sign your name at the end of the letter. ● Print your name below your signature.
  26. 26. An Example: After2. Copy the form. You need to keep a copy of the filled-out letter for your records.3. Mail the letter. If possible, you should use certified mail and ask for a return receipt. This proves that the debt collector got the letter. Do not send them these instructions.4. Keep your copy of the letter and the return receipt in a safe place. If the debt collector contacts you after they get the letter, you can sue them. You will need the letter and return receipt to prove they got the letter.
  27. 27. ComparisonOriginal RevisionCharacters: 978 Characters: 934 ↓Words: 233 Words: 230 ↓Sentences: 11 Sentences: 26 ↑Chars/Word: 4.20 Chars/Word: 4.06 ↓Syllables/Word: 1.48 Syllables/Word: 1.40 ↓Words/Sentence: 21.18 Words/Sentence: 8.85 ↓Flesch Kincaid: 10.09 Flesch Kincaid: 4.43 ↓Flesch Reading Ease: Flesch Reading Ease:60.43 79.05 ↑
  28. 28. Your TurnSocial Security is a system enacted by Congressdesigned to supplement your retirement income. It isnot intended to provide your sole source of income—itmerely adds to the pension benefits, savings plans, andother investments that you will rely on duringretirement.
  29. 29. A Second TimeThe earned income tax credit (EITC or EIC) is arefundable tax credit for people who work but do notearn high incomes. A tax credit usually means moremoney in your pocket because it reduces the amount oftax you owe. Those who qualify for a credit can reduceor eliminate their federal tax liability. Because the EITCis a refundable credit, any part of the credit which is notneeded for the reduction of a tax debt will be sent tothe taxpayer as a refund.
  30. 30. Resources• Plain English for Lawyers by Richard C. Wydick• The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style by Bryan A. Garner• Legal Aid Plain Language Library https://sites.google.com/a/lawny.org/plain-language- library/consolidated-library-example• PlainLanguage.gov http://www.plainlanguage.gov/• Center for Plain Language http://centerforplainlanguage.org/
  31. 31. Resources• Simple Words and Phrases http://www.plainlanguage.gov/howto/wordsuggestions/simplew ords.cfm• How to write Simple English pages http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:How_to_write_Simple _English_articles• Tests Document Readability http://www.online- utility.org/english/readability_test_and_improve.jsp• OKAPI: Readability Assessment http://www.lefthandlogic.com/htmdocs/tools/okapi/okapi.php
  32. 32. CreditsThese photos are from Flickr with CreativeCommons license.● http://www.flickr.com/photos/-bast-/349497988/● http://www.flickr.com/photos/mshades/59990015/● http://www.flickr.com/photos/bludgeoner86/2136978127/● http://www.flickr.com/photos/butterflysha/122872445/● http://www.flickr.com/photos/extranoise/169187125/
  33. 33. Contact InformationKate BladowFounder & Strategist, Powered Pursuitspresentations@poweredpursuits.com

×