Writing for the Web Module 1: Plain Language

Writing for the Web Module 1: Plain Language

Writing for the Web Module 1: Plain Language Beta .082 18-July-2016 Plain Language Outline: Where this module fits What is plain language? Why is it important? How do we write plainly?

Examples and live edits Where this module fits This module is the first of four Writing for the Web training modules: Module Module Module Module 1:

2: 3: 4: Plain Language Content Development Web Style Visual Design Where this module fits Module 1: Plain Language

This guide is the starting point for Writing for the Web. It fits into every content development project at the beginning, middle, and end. If content is written plainly from the start, it saves hours, dollars, and frustration What is plain language? Plain language is content that has everything your readers need, and

nothing they dont. Nothing they dont. Plain Language is: Clear, accurate writing Organized into logical topics Content that speaks to the reader directly Short sentences, short words Accurate and efficient Eminently useful Written for a well understood audience

A note on Audience: Simple writing doesnt mean a simple audience Writing for a set grade or reading level is rarely effective Know your audience, and write for them Specialists need specialist language, but this is still plain language (no jargon, clearly written, efficient etc.) Multiple audiences dont mean multiple styles

or voices Our voice and style is always: plain language Easy? Not exactly. To writers, editors, or content strategists, this may seem obvious and easy, but its not. Writing plainly takes more diligence than almost any other type of business writing. Why is plain language important?

1. Web projects fail without it Whatever youre trying to accomplish on the web will probably fail if readers cant get to the point. Few will read what you wrote, fewer will understand

the call to action Conversion rates are abysmal when web content is wordy, lengthy, and jargon-filled People leave your content, and try to find other options (never a good outcome when youre the monopoly) Why is plain language important? 2. Accessibility demands it

Writing for a wide audience with diverse abilities requires clarity and efficiency 20% of your audience may have some form of visual or cognitive impairment, and that number is

expected to grow All content should be written for machine translation into other languages and for screen readers % of viewers whos primary language isnt English Accessible on all devices means clear content expressed in as few words as possible The B.C. government has committed to accessible web experiences for citizens Why is plain language important? 3. It may soon be a legal requirement

The Canadian federal government was sued for delivering online services thats werent accessible. In 2010 Donna Jodhan, a special needs consultant, launched a constitutional challenge. She is blind,

and was unable to apply for a job on the federal governments website. She won, and the federal government was given 15 months to comply and make its website accessible. Theres no doubt or argument. WE NEED TO WRITE PLAINLY. How to write plainly?

There are dozens of approaches to creating plain language content. And there are dozens of tools. Weve put together an approach that works for the B.C. government. How to write plainly: 1. Understand the principles 2. Follow the guides 3. Practice slash and burn Exercise: Live Edit

4. Use great resources How to write plainly 1. Understand our principles Our content is: Accessible, Useful, Accurate, Clear Our Voice is Personal, Direct, Confident, Honest

How to write plainly Test content against these principles. Just ask: is it? How to write plainly 2. Follow the guides: Writing for the Web standards on Gov.bc.ca:

Plain Language Guide Content Development Guide Web Style Guide Visual Design Guide How to write plainly These guides were created by people from all across the public sector.

They are maintained by GCPE and CDAWGs They are always CURRENT, even if theyre not perfect. How to write plainly Step by Step: Plain Language Writing Guide (Opens PL Guide for walk through) How to write plainly

3. Practice Slash and Burn On existing content, cut and chop: Delete extra words Un-bloat paragraphs Consolidate web pages Archive old content

How to write plainly Slash and Burn Aggressive editing is known as "slash and burn editing, so people using mobile devices or screen readers can find what they need quickly. By using short words and sentences, and slashing away the noise, main ideas rise to the surface of each paragraph.

Example: Slash and Burn This: This module introduces a set of methods and activities that can be used to discover what your users need from your websites and online services. It is intended as an introduction into the world of design research. These methods go beyond focus groups and surveys, and can be used both internally and externally. While a wide array of staff can participate in design research, it is recommended that ministries seek guidance and support from an experienced specialist in order to get the most out of this

activity. Working with an expert will help develop capacity in your ministry for ongoing design research. Example: Slash and Burn Is edited like this: This module introduces a set of methods and activities that can be used to discover what your users need from your websites and online services. It is intended as an introduction into the world of design research. These methods go beyond focus groups and surveys, and can be used both internally and externally. While a wide array of staff can participate in design

research, it is recommended that ministries (should) seek guidance and support from an experienced specialist in order to get the most out of this activity. Working with an expert will help develop capacity in your ministry for ongoing design research. ??? Example: Slash and Burn And then the magic happens. In a few short minutes, meaning rises to the surface.

Suddenly, you see what the readers need to see. You see through the noise. Example: Slash and Burn And this mess: This module introduces a set of methods and activities that can be used to discover what your users need from your websites and online services . It is intended as an introduction into the world of design research. These methods go beyond focus groups and surveys, and can be used both internally

and externally. While a wide array of staff can participate in design research, it is recommended that ministries seek guidance and support from an experienced specialist in order to get the most out of this activity. Working with an expert will help develop capacity in your ministry for ongoing design research. Example: Slash and Burn Becomes this: This module introduces a set of methods and activities that can be used to discover what your users need from your

websites and online services . It is intended as an introduction into the world of design research. These methods go beyond focus groups and surveys, and can be used both internally and externally. While a wide array of staff can participate in design research, it is recommended that ministries seek guidance and support from an experienced specialist in order to get the most out of this activity. Working with an expert will help develop capacity in your ministry for ongoing design research. Example: Slash and Burn

102 words to 5. No loss of meaning. Eminently clear. This is Plain Language. Accept nothing else! Exercise Live edit This is not a shaming exercise! Using live content provides context and shows how effective (and even

fun) plain language can be. With that, on to Gov.bc.ca How to write plainly 4. Write for B.C., but also refer to other tools and resources: Plainlanguage.gov FAA Plain Language Course Hemmingway app Grammerly

Summary Plain language content is the only content that should exist on Gov.bc.ca It may become law to write plainly Follow the B.C. government guides to develop plain language web content Review additional plain language resources Practice: it makes perfect Writing for the Web Module 1: Plain Language

QUESTIONS & DISCUSSION

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