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News & views

Plain-language conference in Sweden

[26 June 2011] The Plain Language InterNational (PLAIN) conference 2011 was held in Stockholm, Sweden from 9–11 June. The event was an important milestone in the development of the plain-language field, as members of the International Plain Language Working Group led a discussion on the recently published options paper, ‘Strengthening plain language: public benefit and professional practice’.

Our research director Martin Cutts was at the event, speaking in two sessions:

  • ‘Establishing a universal definition of plain language’ – a plenary panel discussion featuring four ‘practitioners who have been closely involved with defining plain language, either through an influential definition of their own or their recent work on the options paper’. Martin and the other three plain-language experts (from Canada and the USA) discussed the options and the feasibility of establishing a universally accepted definition. Work is continuing to fine-tune a definition: we’ll keep you posted on this.
  • ‘Complaining about bad writing: does it achieve anything except make me feel better?’ – a presentation on what happens when you complain to the people responsible for unclear writing: ‘Sometimes they ignore you as a madman, sometimes they send a poignantly illiterate reply, and sometimes they commission you to rewrite a stack of dodgy documents.’ Martin described his complaint about a badly written sign, which led to visitors to Buxton, Derbyshire, saving about £18,000 a year in parking fines. (See Articles on this website.)
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