All of the pages

Two tip-top style guides, loads of accessibility resources, thoughts on dumbing down and hey – I'm soon available for freelance work!

Welcome to issue 11 of Plain English Weekly, sent to you by freelance content designer, Iain Broome. That's me. Hello. Again.

Three things!

  1. Thank you to everyone who answered last week's survey that contains just one question. It's still live. I would love your thoughts.
  2. I'm available for freelance work from December! My current project work is unexpectedly going on pause, so if you have a content design, copywriting or clear language challenge, email and give me a toot.
  3. The survey results so far tell me many of you are interested in plain English training. Look out for an online course on the website in the new year. In the meantime, I run practical workshops with teams. Again, toot away.

Okay, that's it. Enjoy your regular programming below.


Octopus: a visual sitemap tool and website planner

Let's start by recommending this excellent tool for putting together a lovely sitemap. It has a few features that I like, especially the ability to show what they call 'content bricks' on pages within the sitemap.

I've been using Octopus this past fortnight to prototype some information architecture for user research sessions. It allowed me show and test the overall site structure, but then zoom in to cover more detailed blocks of content on key pages. It's great! Go try it!

Oh – in this blog post, the Octopus team explain the content brick method.

Lisa Riemers' incredible collection of accessibility resources

This is a wonderful collection of links from independent content specialist, Lisa Riemers. I'm pretty sure that you'll find lots of useful stuff, but do check out the section on justifying the use of plain English in particular.

Plain language style guidance from Office for National Statistics (ONS)

As you perhaps know by now, I love finding concise and practical style guidelines and here's another one for the list. This is the plain language section of the ONS style guide and it contains some sound advice and good links out to further reading.

Guide to writing in plain language from The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne

Here's another style guide I quite like, though I can only find it as a PDF. Sorry! Notice the brevity, again. But also the use of examples to show how the guidance can be practically applied. Lovely stuff.

Basically, I think something like this should be the bare minimum for any organisation. You can use the guides I share in this newsletter for inspiration – explore the archive – just make sure your guidance and examples are relevant to you and what you do.

Thoughts on the 'dumbing down' content argument

I've spent most of the last year working on content and doing user research in the world of planning. By crikey, that's a world packed full of jargon and complex language!

You won't be surprised to hear I've found myself on the receiving end of some occasional pushback when explaining the need for clearer language. It's been suggested that complexity is necessary to avoid 'legal challenge' and that planning content is effectively too complicated to change.

You and I both know that's nonsense, of course. But these discussions can be a challenge. That's why I recommend this piece from Sarah Winters and the Content Design London crew to help you explain why plain English is far from dumbing down and all about making content accessible.

How should we draft our privacy information?

Finally this week, we're off to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) and there aren't many newsletters that can say that.

First, a massive high-five to the ICO for wanting to write clear privacy information in the first place. Second, let's all make that a high-ten for this detailed and thoughtful guidance. It contains all sorts of sensible suggestions, including user testing your content!

By the way – what's your organisation's privacy policy like? Not so hot as your homepage, right? Remember, we need to wear our clear language hats when working on all of the pages, all of the time.

New reader?

Join a growing community of nearly 550 clear language champs and start getting advice and resources that help you write clearer, more accessible content.

Subscribe to Plain English Weekly

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.