by Nicole Watkins Campbell
Editing for Plainer Legal Writing Instructor
The best way to ensure your document meets readers’ needs is to test it with the audience. Even testing that is quick and cheap can give you useful information about how to improve your document.
What is a test?
A test can be as simple as asking a colleague or a citizen to answer one question about your text or as complicated as inviting 30 people to read your document and answer questions. Almost any test will help you make the writing better. And any test with a member of your audience will get you closer to writing that works for your readers.
When should you test?
Start testing as soon as you have enough material to test. Don’t wait until your document is complete unless it’s a short email.
Make corrections based on feedback, and test again, if you can. The best practice is to test a couple of times, and more if the text is important and could be difficult for your readers.
How should you test?
Several methods will help you improve your document.
Record your results in some way:
Who should you recruit?
Testing documents internally with co-workers while you’re still writing is highly useful. You can then test a final draft with someone from outside your team. Your co-workers will likely read about as well as you do and have the same technical understanding, so you will want other perspectives on the complexity of the language and the topic.
Don’t test with people who know the information in the document or people who helped you get to this point in creating this document. They will know too much about your subject area to notice what’s missing or out of place.
Your word processor or a website like Hemingway Editor will offer quick readability tests. But these long-established ways of describing how readable a text is actually don’t mean much. They were originally created to measure children’s reading skills, not documents for adults.
The software counts syllables (to represent complexity in language), words and paragraphs (to represent complexity in expression) to roughly estimate reading difficulty. The resulting number claims to reflect the number of years of education a person needs to read the text.
Readability measures fail in three main ways:
If your text readability score from Microsoft Word or Hemingway Editor is gets a Grade 10 or higher, you probably need to edit for clarity: many people don’t read at this level. If you test again, you will be able to see if your changes made your sentences easier to read, but you should rely on other methods to make sure your text is clear.
Try setting up a simple test of a bit of writing this week. You will learn something surprising or pleasing. But you will learn something.
Nicole Watkins Campbell
Plain Language Academies (PLA) expands
New courses, languages, instructors, opportunities
Plain language knows no boundaries: so we are expanding ours to offer plain language courses in French, Spanish, and in South Africa. We want plain language to be everywhere because we know it is for everyone.
'New' is a key word for today's personal and work lives. The Plain Language Academies' team is creating more ways to share our skills and meet your growing needs for clear communication. Take advantage of current Core and Advanced courses at last year's fees. We encourage you to explore Advanced courses that tackle specific topics like clear health, legal, science, strategic planning, and online communication. New courses are coming. keep visiting us PlainLanguageAcademy.com for details and sign up for our newsletter.
We are looking forward to meeting you online, sharing skills, and learning about your interests.
Courses to take you forward
Our courses are designed to keep your clear communication skill development focused on the future. New fees are planned for future courses. Here are brief profiles of a few courses you can consider.
Clear Design Practices with Flora Gordon, (you can still sign up), explores the important role design plays in our communications and ways you can make design enhance your messages.
Plain Language 2.0 and Health Literacy, never been more important. Romina Marazzato Sparano shares her expertise. Available in English (now) and Spanish (soon).
Everyone is online and we need to be clear and meet their needs. Kate Harrison Whiteside brings her years of plain language use online experience to you in Creating Clear E-content.
New: Implementing Plain Language as a Strategic Priority with Sarah Slabbert and Nadja Green, Plain Language Institute, South Africa. The focus of plain language is often on specific documents or pieces of communication. Implementing plain language in a systematic manner in an organization is a different challenge for executives, compliance officers, communication managers, or customer relations. This course will empower you to make your organization truly customer- or citizen-centred.
See Courses for current course registration links
Three good reasons to work on legal editing
by Nicole Watkins Campbell
We have three good reasons to work on your legal writing and editing skills this year.
1. New year–new you.
New learning ALWAYS refreshes.
2. It will keep your mind busy during a potentially slow period.
Learning ways to sharpen your writing or editing skills is always useful, especially if you have time to devote to deep study, like during a slow period at work.
3. It will give you little breaks during a potentially busy period.
You can study at your own pace over about six weeks, even though it’s a four-week course. You can chat with other students or with me, your instructor, on issues that challenge you. In fact, I’ll help you on a thorny document, if you’d like. Learning is good for your brain and enhancing skills is good for your career.
Join me for A2 Editing for Plainer Legal Writing
Help us plan your future learning
The PLA team is so committed to the future of plain language, of enhanced learning, and of building connections. We are always looking for ways to improve plain language practices, skills, and projects. We keep broadening our program to meet new needs we are all facing. If you would like to see a new course, offer a new course, or access our coaching and consulting services, please get in touch. Contact email@example.com.
English, Français, Español and South African Collaborations
Academy becomes Academies
2021 will bring a new vision. More options. The PlainLanguageAcademy.com is now Plain Language Academies. We are adding new courses and new languages and new collaborations to meet your needs to learn in more ways.
More options, greater access
Our language options will soon include French (Français) and Spanish (Español) courses, with a new collaboration in South Africa focused on plain language strategy skills. We are growing so you can expand your learning and your horizons.
More Advanced courses to increase your options
We are here to help you build new skills for your plain language portfolio and future. Topics include online content, health, legal, and the science of plain language. Coming soon: strategic planning and document assessment.
Advanced courses to meet tomorrow's challenges
Register now for our fall offerings of Creating Clear E-content, Editing for Plainer Legal Writing, and Plain Language 2.0 and Health Literacy.
Cheryl Stephens is back with Science Supports Plain Language. Flora Gordon is delivering Clear Design Practices. Core courses are open now for registration.
Visit our Calendar for dates and links.
Académie du langage clair et simple
Meet our Français (French) team
Chantale Audet et Amélie Bourret, d'Autrement dit, une entreprise québécoise qui offre des services en langage clair et simple.
Bienvenue à l'Académie du langage clair et simple
Chantale Audet et Amélie Bourret, d’Autrement dit, ont développé un cours d’initiation au langage clairet simple, en français. Ce cours, Introduction au langage clair et simple, sera proposé à partir dudébut de l’année 2021.
Chantale Audet and Amélie Bourret, d'Autrement dit, a Quebec consulting firm that offers services in plain language, have developed an introductory French plain language course. The course, Introduction to Plain Language, will be offered at the beginning of 2021.
Academia de lenguaje claro
Meet our Claro (Spanish) Team
Romina Marazzato Sparano and team are working hard developing a set of courses to get the Academia de Lenguaje Claro ready for you in 2021.
Bienvenidos a la Academia de Lenguaje Claro
Romina Marazzato Sparano, languagecompass.com, (California) is teaming up with the best instructors in the Spanish-speaking world to offer Spanish plain language courses. They include introductory courses about clear writing and specialized courses on legal, corporate, health literacy, and academic writing. Academia launches in 2021.
Romina Marazzato Sparano, languagecompass.com (California) ha convocado a los mejores instructores del mundo hispanohablante para ofrecer formación en lenguaje claro en español, con cursos introductorios sobre la buena redacción y cursos especializados en redacción legal, corporativa,médica y académica. Se abrirá la inscripción a principios de 2021.
Discover what's happening at
Implementing Plain Language as a Strategic Priority
Meet our South African team
South Africa's Sarah Slabbert and Nadja Green of the Plain Language Institute are developing the new Implementing Plain Language as a Strategic Priority Advanced course (registration coming this fall; course in 2021). They will also be offering two of the existing PLA courses via their website.
Plain language actions often focus on specific documents or pieces of communication. Implementing plain language in a systematic manner in an organization is, however, a different challenge for executives, compliance officers and communication managers. The new Advanced course will empower you to make your organization truly customer- or citizen-centred.
Interested? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Nicole Watkins Campbell, www.watkinscampbell.com
In the 2020s, more and more new information will be created and published online and in print.
We will see:
Making your information stand out
This information exists in many places online and in printed documents, some well-written and others less so.
Good writing serves readers well if it:
The writer's role in clear communication
What do you, the writer or editor, know about what your readers need? Where are they when they read your document? Do they need to read twice to understand it and take action?
As a writer or editor of legal information, you can help your readers by learning more about them and then making your writing as clear as possible.
Learn about legal editing for clarity
My Academy course, Editing for Plainer Legal Writing, will help you make your writing more useful and more interesting. And, that will actually make you more trustworthy and likeable. This study of complex language explains how.
This course will guide you on how to edit information about the law—about people’s rights and responsibilities—to meet your clients' needs. You will learn to make these types of documents or content clearer for your readers, even if you are not a lawyer. In fact, the course is aimed at non-legal communicators who are tasked with presenting legal information.
Join me February 10, 2020 for Editing for Plainer Legal Writing. Reserve your place now.
You will sharpen your skills and win client appreciation.
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