How to plan your route to the land of plain language

Getting everyone in your organisation to write plainly can feel like a journey through a foreign landscape, to a destination that’s appealing but mysterious.

The Rewrite for Change™ Model is a roadmap, and Rewrite: How to overcome daily sabotage of your brand and profit is a travel guide for organisations on this journey. Use these tools to plan your route — your stops along the way, your means of transport. You may see that you’re nearer your destination than you thought. How far have you already come?

Diagram of the trademarked Rewrite for Change Model.
The Rewrite for Change ™ Model guarantees project success

A plain language standard — it’s your destination

Setting a plain language standard is like pushing a pin into a map. ‘We’re going here.’ ‘This is the standard, and everything we do must take us to the destination.’

Training — start your journey

Everyone who writes in your organisation has had training of some kind. They may have a PhD. They may have taken a course in plain English writing. Or they may have had specialist training in a skill like policy writing. As a minimum, they learned to write at school. So your plain language journey has already begun. But now, how will you travel?

Support — take the express train

You probably have support in place for your writers — this is your means of transport. Support might include:

  • a style guide
  • access to a dictionary
  • use of the Oxford Dictionary online or

But do your writers think to use them?

You can use other, more powerful ways to support your writers. For example, you could have an easily accessed handy booklet of writing guidelines that shows them how to reach the standard. Use this to put your writers on the express train to your plain language destination.

Expect — is everyone on board?

Expect everyone to write to the plain language standard. To do so, you must have your organisation’s management behind you. Writers at every level need to know that meeting the standard is a must. There’s no leaving the train before the end of the journey.

Build the expectation in your organisation that everyone writes to the standard. Make sure that everyone is on the trip together — the chief executive, every level of management, and all other staff.

Measure the miles — how much further?

How will you know you’ve arrived at your destination? Think of children on a car journey: ‘Are we there yet?’

Whenever you set off, you always know where you’ve begun your journey. When you decide to introduce a plain language culture, check where you’re starting from. Set a benchmark for the current quality of your organisation’s writing. One way to do this is to get an audit of a sample of your organisation’s writing. Repeat the audit in 6 months or a year. See how far you’ve travelled.

Celebrate — you’re there!

At the end of your journey, it’s always good to arrive. When you’ve reached ‘the land of plain English’, you’ll want to stay. So keep measuring, and keep training, supporting, and expecting. Importantly, keep celebrating your gains — you all deserve to enjoy your success.