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Presented by Jola Edwards, M.Ed. Rachel Drew, M.F.A. Center for Policy and Innovation Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services 1.

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Presentation on theme: "Presented by Jola Edwards, M.Ed. Rachel Drew, M.F.A. Center for Policy and Innovation Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services 1."— Presentation transcript:

1 Presented by Jola Edwards, M.Ed. Rachel Drew, M.F.A. Center for Policy and Innovation Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services 1

2 Today’s Schedule 1:45Take the pretest 1:55Intro 2:30Plain writing techniques 3:0015-minute break 3:15Plain writing techniques/exercises 4:15Contest 4:50Take the posttest 2

3 At the end of class, you should Understand what plain language is and where it came from Know some of the techniques for writing in plain language Be able to begin using some of those techniques in your own writing Know where to get more information and help 3

4 4

5 What makes good writing? 5 What do you think makes good writing?

6 Plain language: It’s about communicating. 6 What is it? Why should I use it? How do I do it?

7 Plain language is a worldwide movement. Sweden UK European Union Canada Australia Mexico United States Government Business Healthcare Legal 7

8 U.S. Federal Efforts  President Clinton’s Executive Memorandum, 1997  Plainlanguage.gov  Plain Writing Act of 2010 Signed by President Obama on October 13, 2010 “The purpose of this Act is to improve the effectiveness and accountability of Federal agencies to the public by promoting clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.” 8

9 “Clear writing from your government is a civil right.” 9 —Former Vice President Al Gore, 1998

10 Why use plain language? Saves time Reduces mistakes telephone calls litigation frustration Saves money Is more easily translated Is more accessible 10

11 Testimonial from the federal government “The focus on PL let everyone know that it is OK to be clear, that we don't have to hide our message behind big words and bureaucratic language.” (Veterans Benefits Administration) 11

12 Just Say What You Mean. Plain language makes it easy for readers to: Find Read Understand Act on INFORMATION 12

13 Step 1: Identify why and who Step 2: Organize your information Step 3: Use plain language writing techniques Step 4: Test your document Step 5: Revise 13 The Plain Language Writing Process

14 Identify why and who  Why am I writing this?  Who are my readers (my audience)?  What does my audience know?  What does my audience need to know?  How will my audience use this document? 14 Step 1

15 Organize your information  Organize for your readers  Organize information in a logical order  Choose an appropriate format  Use descriptive headings  Use white space  Use tables  Try using the “inverted pyramid” 15 Step 2

16 Deploy your PL techniques  Use active voice  Use present tense  Use the simplest word  Avoid hidden verbs  Minimize acronyms and jargon  Use short sentences  Keep subject, verb, and object close together and in order 16 Step 3

17 17 Step 3, continued: More PL Techniques No extra words Simple tables Well-structured lists Personal pronouns Question and Answer format Breaking up noun chains Paragraph unity Fewer sublevels Words, not slashes Parallel phrasing “Must” instead of “shall” Well-placed words

18 1. Read your own document. 2. Have a reader test your document. 3. Look for “naïve” readers as well as experts when you seek feedback. 18 Step 4: Test your document

19  The writing process always includes revising.  Use the results of testing.  Look first at big issues like format and organization.  Edit at the sentence level. 19 Step 5: Revise

20 Accessible design is plain design Informative headings and subheadings Left-aligned, ragged right Line length of 65 characters or less Bulleted or numbered lists Tables White space 20

21 Document Design: Which would you rather read? Diagnostic Procedures At the beginning of the process are the application and diagnostic procedures upon which you base your eligibility decision. Your role as the counselor is to initiate, analyze, and evaluate information considering the overall process. It may be helpful at this stage to "begin with the end in mind"—in other words, consider what outcomes are needed from each piece of the process to move to the next step. At application and throughout the diagnostic interview, you have the first opportunity to investigate the impact of disability on the consumer. Investigating this kind of information in the diagnostic interview is a complex process of probing and exploration. You must be prepared with the right questions and focus on the outcome to ensure that you can gather pertinent information, if it is not readily available. You may consider part of the interview as a service orientation in which you explain your role of counselor as direct provider of services, arranger or coordinator of services, and consumer advocate. The consumer must glimpse what is possible, even if the person does not yet fully understand the role he or she will play in becoming successful. Depending on the level of participation possible from the consumer, you should also explain any further diagnostic procedures, the eligibility process, and decision making that influences further planning. A sensitive, thorough interview is necessary, since one outcome may be that you find no indication of a disability and recommend that the person seek services from another source. The level and extent of evaluations you request to supplement the interview should be based on your diagnostic appraisal. Conserving funds and time dictates obtaining only the amount of information needed to evaluate the individual consumer. Again, "beginning with the end in mind" helps you to clarify the decisions you must make for eligibility when you first meet the consumer. The application, diagnostic interview, and subsequent diagnostic procedures are the first of several cornerstone pieces of a sound plan of services to reach the agreed-upon outcome. Having sound diagnostic information leads you to determining eligibility. The diagnostic interview is a significant vehicle for collecting information because it allows the consumer to provide you with needed social and vocational history. If you have not sufficiently developed this piece, you may fail to realize the need for a medical, psychological, educational, or vocational evaluation, a failure that could lead to a poor eligibility decision or developing a less than optimal plan for employment. You must see the diagnostic interview as a critical part of planning and decision making. Your role is to listen effectively and to ask questions as necessary. Diagnostic Procedures At the beginning of the process are the application and diagnostic procedures upon which you base your eligibility decision. Your role as the counselor is to initiate, analyze, and evaluate information considering the overall process. It may be helpful at this stage to "begin with the end in mind"—in other words, consider what outcomes are needed from each piece of the process to move to the next step. Developing a Plan At application and throughout the diagnostic interview, you have the first opportunity to investigate the impact of disability on the consumer. Investigating this kind of information in the diagnostic interview is a complex process of probing and exploration. You must be prepared with the right questions and focus on the outcome to ensure that you can gather pertinent information, if it is not readily available. You may consider part of the interview as a service orientation in which you explain your role of counselor as direct provider of services, arranger or coordinator of services, and consumer advocate. The consumer must glimpse what is possible, even if the person does not yet fully understand the role he or she will play in becoming successful. 21

22 Guideline 3.1 Readable: Make text content readable and understandable. —World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) 22 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0:

23 Principle 3 Understandable 3.1.5Reading Level: if reading level is above lower secondary education level, add supplemental content, add a version at or below the lower secondary education level, or make the text easier to read (G153) 23

24 What Readability Formulas Can and Cannot Do Readability formulas can give a quick, general assessment. They cannot measure logical order vocabulary appropriateness gender, class, or cultural bias effective design concreteness and abstraction obscurity, ambiguity, or incoherence gobbledygook 24

25 25

26 Don’t Hide Your Verbs in Nouns, Use Action Verbs Changing a verb into a noun hides the action and substitutes a weaker verb. 26 Hidden Verb: Let’s make a decision. Action Verb: Let’s decide.

27 Hidden Verbs perform an assessment of give consideration to make payment conduct a review of issue a report Action Verbs assess consider pay review report 27

28 Why use action verbs instead of hidden verbs? Too many nouns Abstract Wordy Sluggish Active verbs Concrete Concise Lively 28

29 Active Voice Uses normal word order in a sentence: subject—verb—object Tells “who” “did what” to “whom.” Example: Sally wrote the rule. 29

30 Passive Voice The object becomes the subject. The doer of the action (the usual subject) disappears, or moves to the end of the sentence in a "by" phrase. The verb uses a form of "to be" with the past participle. Examples: The rule was written. The rule was written by Sally. 30

31 If overused, passive voice makes the reader work harder creates sluggish, foggy writing 31

32 Never say never...even about passive voice.... Use it when you don’t want to identify the doer the doer is unknown, unimportant, or obvious the law is the doer Example: The rule was repealed in

33 No Extra Words Cut out 1. extra prepositional phrases 2. wordy phrases 3. unnecessary adjectives 4. clutter words 33

34 Too Many Prepositional Phrases Flabby: … but only such services as are needed [for such individual] [by reason] [of his condition] [of being disabled]. (4) Lean: … but only those services the person needs because he or she has a disability. (0) 34

35 Wordy Phrases Phrases that use many words to do the work of one or two. at this point in time at that point in time during the period when due to the fact that in the event that notwithstanding the fact that 35

36 Wordy Phrases at this point in time now at that point in timethen during the period when when due to the fact that since, because in the event thatif notwithstanding the fact thatalthough 36

37 Unnecessary Adjectives [considerable] difficulty [pertinent] information [personal] opinion [integral] part [future] plans [new] innovation [violent] explosion [absolutely] necessary 37

38 Clutter Words The office has not [yet] received the report. The worker denied [any] knowledge of the new forms. The governor is [now] serving his third term. The program will close [down] on July 1. 38

39 Every word that is unnecessary only pours over the side of a brimming mind. —Cicero 39

40 Say it succinctly 40 Before Investigators at the contractor will review the facts in your case and decide the most appropriate course of action. The first step taken with most Medicare health care providers is to reeducate them about Medicare regulations and policies. If the practice continues, the contractor may conduct special audits of the providers medical records. Often, the contractor recovers overpayments to health care providers this way. If there is sufficient evidence to show that the provider is consistently violating Medicare policies, the contractor will document the violations and ask the Office of the Inspector General to prosecute the case. This can lead to expulsion from the Medicare program, civil monetary penalties, and imprisonment.

41 Say it succinctly 41 After We will take two steps to look at this matter: We will find out if it was an error or fraud. We will let you know the result.

42 Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication —Leonardo da Vinci 42

43 Say It Simply 43 YES  mean what you write  short sentences  simple words  precise words  considered writing NO  “dumb it down”  “50¢ words”  slang  jargon  lazy writing

44 Simple Words Understood quickly & easily Prefer the Anglo Saxon word to the Latin derivative 44

45 Latin Derivative prior to subsequent to acquire adjacent to conceal before after get beside hide 45 Anglo Saxon

46 Simple, Everyday Words Not these,  utilize  assist  numerous  individual  initiate  shall  obtain But these:  use  help  many  person, consumer  begin, start  must  get 46

47 Example of a Simpler Word Before: The counselor assists the consumer with making an informed choice. After: The counselor helps the consumer make an informed choice. 47

48 Our national tendency is to inflate and thereby sound important.... But the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. —William Zinsser, On Writing Well,

49 49

50 Well-Placed Words Keep related words close together: subjects, verbs, & objects modifiers & the things they modify 50

51 Does word placement matter? Yesterday in town a mad dog bit five men in the north end. We will publish a list of properties that qualify for relief under this subpart each October. 51

52 Noun chain: baseball game ticket price increase proposal Break it up: proposal to increase the ticket price of baseball games Breaking Up 52 Noun Chains

53 Well-Structured Lists Well-structured lists make it easy for the reader to  find all the items  follow the steps add white space for eye appeal 53

54 Find the list in this sentence: The student applicant should submit an official copy of his or her transcript, two letters of recommendation from professors, a statement of financial need, and a short biographical statement to our grants office by April

55 To apply, submit the following items to our grants office by April 15: an official copy of your transcript, two letters of recommendation from professors, a statement of financial need, and a short biographical statement. 55 Well-structured list

56 Personal Pronouns engage readers simplify verbs reduce wordiness provide a less official tone 56

57 Simpler Verbs with “You” 3 rd person: The counselor assesses the consumer. 2 nd person: You assess the consumer. or Assess the consumer. 57

58 How to Use “You” Use “you” for the person who reads and may need to act on what you are writing. Example from City of Austin website: We encourage vendors to register in VSS so that the City can notify you about new opportunities. 58

59 Identify who “you” refers to in your document. Examples If you are the VR counselor, you must.... or In this chapter, “you” refers to the VR counselor. 59

60 How to Use “You” If you are writing to the consumer, use “you” to refer to the consumer, and use “we” or “us” to refer to the agency. Example: You may request a duplicate certificate when you need one by contacting us. 60

61 Example: More than 1 “You” Use the following guidelines to help people with physical disabilities when an evacuation has been ordered. o If you are a floor safety coordinator, you must 1. check on employees in your area who have special needs during an evacuation, and 2. ensure that each employee with a disability has an evacuation buddy and a back-up buddy who will help the person in the evacuation. 61

62 Example, continued If you are an evacuation buddy, o attempt to rescue or evacuate a disabled employee only 1. if you have had rescue training, or 2. if the employee is in immediate danger and cannot wait for professional help; o always ask the person 1. how you can help, 2. how you can best move the person, and 3. whether there are any special considerations, or items you need to bring with you. 62

63 Using “You” in Q&A Format § Does my permit or lease grant me an exclusive right to develop the lands covered by the permit or lease? No. Your permit or lease gives you an exclusive right to the mineral, but not to the lands. —Bureau of Land Management 63

64 Writing is an art, not a science. 64

65 65

66 Exercise 1: Identify who and why Scenario: Your boss asks you to write a communication to the entire staff of your agency explaining the new agency process for submitting requests for help to the IT department. How do you communicate this information? 66

67 Exercise 2: Edit to Expose the Hidden Verbs Before entering the store to buy candy, the boy makes a decision to buy Fizzle Skittles, and engages in a raid of his mother’s change purse. 67

68 Exercise 2: Edit to Expose the Hidden Verbs Will the real verbs please stand up? Before entering the store to buy candy, the boy decides to buy Fizzle Skittles, and raids his mother’s change purse. 68 Suggested Answer

69 Exercise 3: Use active voice 1.Since last seeing my chiropractor, my back exercises have been done twice a day. 2.Logistical checklists are contained in the business continuity plans to guide department team members during recovery operations. 69

70 Exercise 3: Use active voice 1. Since last seeing my chiropractor, my back exercises have been done twice a day. Since I last saw my chiropractor, I have done back exercises twice a day. 2. Logistical checklists are contained in the business continuity plans to guide department team members during recovery operations. The business continuity plans contain logical checklists to guide department team members during recovery operations. Suggested Answers 70

71 Exercise 4: Cut extra words Vocational rehabilitation services for eligible individuals involved in pursuit of education are currently the responsibility of the Division for Rehabilitation Services and not the responsibility of state colleges and universities. 71

72 Exercise 4: Cut extra words Vocational rehabilitation services for eligible individuals involved in pursuit of education are currently the responsibility of the The Division for Rehabilitation Services, and not the responsibility of state colleges and universities, is responsible for vocational rehabilitation services for consumers enrolled in education. Suggested Answer 72

73 73 Exercise 5a: Use second person Edit the following sentence to use “you” for the counselor. When the counselor becomes aware of a lawsuit, the counselor provides the consumer with a copy of the legal action form, and reviews it with the consumer to answer any questions.

74 Exercise 5a: Use second person When you become aware of a lawsuit, give the consumer a copy of the legal action form, and review it with the consumer to answer any questions. Easier to read, isn’t it? Suggested Answer 74

75 75 Exercise 5b: Use second person Edit the following sentence to use “you” for the consumer. When the counselor becomes aware of a lawsuit, the counselor provides the consumer with a copy of the legal action form, and reviews it with the consumer to answer any questions.

76 Exercise 5b: Use second person When the counselor becomes aware of a lawsuit, the counselor provides you with a copy of the legal action form, and reviews it with you to answer your questions. Suggested Answer 76

77 77 Exercise 6: Make a list. Company employees, if they work in the field and drive agency-owned vehicles or if they drive their own cars while transporting customers, must submit to drug testing.

78 Exercise 6: Make a list. Company employees must submit to drug testing if they work in the field, and drive agency-owned vehicles, or their own vehicles while transporting consumers. 78 Suggested Answer

79 79 Exercise 7a: Well-placed words (keep modifiers close to the words they modify) The purpose of the study guide is to make information about the Board for Evaluation of Interpreters (BEI) Interpreter Certification process, which is administered by the Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services more user friendly.

80 80 Exercise 7a: Well-placed words (keep modifiers close to the words they modify) The purpose of the study guide is to make provide user-friendly information about the Board for Evaluation of Interpreters (BEI) Interpreter Certification process, which is administered by the Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services more user friendly. The Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services administers the BEI Interpreter Certification process.

81 81 Exercise 7b: Well-placed words (keep subjects and verbs close) Bottlenose dolphins who are born at the sanctuary and hand raised by experts who undergo an intensive certification program after completing graduate work in marine biology have a life expectancy of 20 to 25 years.

82 82 Exercise 7b: Well-placed words (keep subjects and verbs close) Bottlenose dolphins who are born at the sanctuary and hand raised by experts who undergo an intensive certification program after completing graduate work in marine biology have a life expectancy of 20 to 25 years. The sanctuary dolphins are hand raised by experts who undergo an intensive certification program after completing graduate work in marine biology.

83 83 Exercise 8: Breaking up noun chains The organization that wins the grant will perform a national crime history record information review.

84 84 Exercise 8: Breaking up noun chains The organization that wins the grant will perform a national crime history record information review national records of crime history.

85 85 The Hoity-Toity Gobbledy-Gook Writing Contest My beagle, Miss Mugsy, won “best in show” at the Humane Society’s dog show last Saturday. or The speech was so boring and hard to understand that most of the audience was too sleepy to be angry about it.

86 Want to learn more about PL? Plainlanguage.gov 86

87 Plain language techniques are not new; most of them are the tenets of good clear writing that have been around for years. PL is all about identifying and respecting the readers, not burdening them with abstract language. PL is a journey, not a destination. PL provides the best customer service to our readers. In Conclusion 87


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