Plain Language: It’s About Smartening Up, Not Dumbing Down (HLOL #179)

Karen Schriver PhD is President of KSA Communication Design and Research—a Pittsburgh-based consultancy focused on making information clear, compelling, and usable. She helps organizations draw on the latest empirical research so they can write and design more effective people-centered communications. She is a former professor of rhetoric and information design at Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Schriver’s book, Dynamics in Document Design: Creating Texts for Readers has been called a landmark in its field. Winner of fourteen international and national awards for her work, Dr. Schriver is writing a new book about ways to reach busy readers through evidence-based information design and plain language.

In this podcast, Dr. Karen Schriver talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Plain language. Includes not only simpler words but also sentence structure, design, and many other ways to help readers find, understand, and use information. 
  • Reluctance and skepticism about plain language (sometimes expressed as concerns about “dumbing down”) from writers and subject-matter experts.
  • Examples and strategies to make a compelling case for using plain language (or, as Helen sometimes calls this approach, “smartening up”).

More Ways to Learn:

  • “Plain Language in the US Gains Momentum: 1940-2015,” by Karen Schriver. Published in IEEE Transactions of Personal Communication, Volume 60, Issue 4. Abstract available at https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8115322/
  • Dynamics in Document Design: Creating Texts for Readers, by Karen Schriver.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1028349.Dynamics_in_Document_Design

For more information, contact Dr. Schriver at kschriver@earthlink.net

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 3, 6, 9, 12, 16, 21, 28.

Read the transcript of this podcast. 

Making a Business Case for Plain Language (HLOL #84)

Joseph Kimble is a long-time champion of plain language. For more than 25 years, he has taught legal writing and drafting at the Thomas Cooley Law School in Michigan. Kimble is a prolific writer, authoring numerous articles and books including Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please: The Case for Plain Language in Business, Government, and Law. He also is editor in chief of The Scribes of Legal Writing and editor of the “Plain Language” column in the Michigan Bar Journal.

Kimble leads, and serves on, many plain language committees, initiatives, and associations. He also helped redraft important legal documents including the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Rules of Evidence. No surprise, Joe Kimble has won a lot of awards for his plain language advocacy and accomplishments.

In this podcast, Joe Kimble talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • What plain language is and why it matters in law, as well as in health.
  • Ways to answer critics and skeptics with truths about plain language.
  • Examples of how plain language can save time and money.

More Ways to Learn:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 4, 27, 28.

Click here to read the written transcript.

Plain Writing Act of 2010 (HLOL #73)

Annetta Cheek Ph.D. is an ongoing champion of plain language. With a background in anthropology and many years experience as a federal employee, Cheek helped lead the way to convincing the U.S. Congress to pass the Plain Writing Act of 2010. Now she and others are supporting new legislation to streamline government regulations.

Annetta Cheek’s commitment to plain language is long-standing. Among her many accomplishments, she served as an expert for Vice President Gore’s plain language initiative. More recently, she helped found the non-profit organization, the Center for Plain Language.

In this podcast, Annetta Cheek talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • Plain language: What it is and why it is needed for all types of documents.
  • Plain language legislation: How government communications affect everyone.
  • Practical ways to help overcome a “culture of complex communication.”

More Ways to Learn:

Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (Updated 2018), by Helen Osborne. Relevant chapters include: 3, 4, 6, 27, 28, 30.

For a transcript of this podcast, please visit http://healthliteracy.com/transcript.asp?PageID=11098

Creating Usable, Useful Health Websites for Readers at All Levels (HLOL #34)

Stacy Robison MPH, CHES is co-founder of CommunicateHealth — a consulting company based in Northampton, Massachusetts. As a certified health educator, Stacy uses plain language to meet the learning needs of audiences with limited health literacy skills.

For the past three years, Stacy has been writing and designing health content for Quick Guide to Healthy Living — part of the award-winning healthfinder.gov Web site from the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. This site has been tested and developed with close to 800 Web users, most of whom have limited health literacy skills.

In this podcast, Stacy Robison talks with Helen Osborne about:

  • How people with limited literacy skills, health literacy skills, or limited time use online health information.
  • What is different when communicating about wellness and prevention (health promotion) v. communicating about diagnosis and treatment (health care).
  • Ways to design health content so that Web users can, and will, take action.

More ways to learn:

Read a transcript of this podcast.

Using Design to Get Readers to Read and Keep Reading (HLOL #29)

Karen Karen SchriverSchriver, PhD is President of KSA Communication Design and Research, a consultancy located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is former professor of rhetoric and information design at Carnegie Mellon University where she co-directed the graduate programs in professional writing and information design.

Dr. Schriver’s first book, Dynamics in Document Design: Creating Texts for Readers—now in its 9th printing—is regarded as an essential text in its field. Winner of ten national awards for her work, Schriver is writing two new books: the first on developing expertise in information design, and the second on visual and verbal design moves to engage readers online.

In this podcast, she talks with Helen Osborne about using good information design to get readers to read, and keep reading. Topics include:

  • Using good information design to help readers feel valued and respected
  • Being a visual detective, observing what works and what doesn’t
  • Engaging readers with contrast, consistency, grouping, and other design moves

More Ways to Learn:

Read a transcript of this podcast

 

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