I recently attended a virtual Plain Language Seminar at the NYC Chapter for the Society of Technical Communication. As a graduate student in technical communication, I found myself with a group that I hope to learn from as I continue my studies. The workshop was organized, efficient, straightforward, fun, funny, and while I did not get a chance to enjoy the free food, I am sure it was delicious.
The Plain Language Seminar takeaway was to get rid of jargon in speech. With well over 20 years of experience as an educator and a plain language expert, Dr. Deborah Bosley is an enigmatic, smart, witty, and engaging speaker. Her presentation was informative. I was particularly surprised when Dr. Bosley shared a story about being called as an expert witness during a hearing.
One example from her presentation demonstrated the power of plain language.
|Provision in fee agreement: BEFORE||Provision in fee agreement: AFTER|
|The client understands that any estimates provided by the Firm of the magnitude of the expenses that will be required at certain stages of any litigation asserting a cause of action are not precise, and that the kinds and amounts of expenses required are ultimately a function of many conditions over which the Firm has little or no control, particularly the extent to which the opposition files pretrial motions and engages in its own discovery requests, whether in the nature of interrogatories, depositions, requests for production, or requests for admission, or any other type of discovery allowed by the rules of procedures in the forum in which the dispute is th grade pending.||A firm’s estimate are just that: estimates. Conditions outside the firm’s control, especially the other side’s pretrial motions and discovery requests, may raise or lower expenses.|
I don’t envy the writers who have to read corporatespeak and translate it for us normal laypeople. As English is not my first language, I have a good understanding of what it feels like to look at a block of text and not have any idea what it means. I remember feeling perplexed by words when I started grade school. I would hate to present someone else with a big block of undecipherable text, which is why I hope I will get my writing as plain as possible.