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Considering plain language: issues and initiatives

Roslyn Petelin (School of English, Media Studies, and Art History, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 11 May 2010

3106

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to review the literature on plain language in Australia, the UK and the USA since the movement began to accelerate in the early 1960s; to review the progress of plain‐language initiatives in those countries in the years since then; to provide guidance on generating plain‐language documents for writers in the corporate arena; and to present suggestions for further research.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper discusses historical and contemporary initiatives and issues relating to plain language, presents guidelines for writing in plain language, and discusses the desirability of ongoing research.

Findings

The paper concludes with suggestions for further research in the corporate sector, where issues such as plain‐language “standards” are contestable, and compliance with plain‐language guidelines is under‐researched.

Research limitations/implications

Although the plain‐language movement has gained great momentum worldwide in recent years, this paper is limited to the countries in which it was pioneered.

Practical implications

The desirability of adopting plain language is undeniable, with many professions and businesses recognising the social and economic benefits of presenting information to their customers in plain language: efficiency, effectiveness, cost‐savings, equity, enhanced consumer satisfaction, among others.

Originality/value

The paper provides a valuable overview of the progress of plain‐language initiatives in Australia, the UK and the USA since the 1960s and highlights the necessity for further research in a movement that has become an important consideration for corporations in an economy in which writing and information design are central.

Keywords

Citation

Petelin, R. (2010), "Considering plain language: issues and initiatives", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 205-216. https://doi.org/10.1108/13563281011037964

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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