Trust your users

Trauma-informed principles and content design, style guide features, accessible communications and just avoid metaphors.

Hello there

Welcome to a most belated edition of Plain English not-so-Weekly, the newsletter for clear language enthusiasts everywhere.

In short: asked for freelance work, got lots of freelance work, had to prioritise all the freelance work. Sorry! Forgive me. We're back now. And I won't hold you up.

Enjoy the list of juicy links below.


Applying trauma informed principles to content design

This talk by Rachel Edwards is an important watch if you work with content for people who may have gone through trauma. It's an area I have a fair bit of experience in too and there is so much to consider.

As with most content, I think working collaboratively with users is always the way to go if you can. As Rachel covers in her talk, I too have come up with what I thought were good ideas only to find they were completely wrong when put in front of people with real lived experience.

Basically: speak to and then trust your users.

5 Features of the Best Content Style Guides

Some solid tips here in this post by Erica Mei-mei Feldfeber. I'm always going to encourage you to include practical advice on how to write clear, inclusive and accessible content in your style guide.

Sometimes, it's tempting to just say, 'Hey, you should write clearly!' But style guides are rarely just for writers and plain English types to use. So feel free to give your team the how as well as the what, so to speak.

Accessible communications: A starting point for fostering more inclusive comms

This is a huge and marvellous guide to accessible communications by Christine Fleming, head of digital content at CharityComms. I've added it to my bookmarks and I'm still reading through it, but I really like the practical tips and lovely lists.

The Good, The Bad, And The Jargon

Nice anti-jargon piece with a focus on NGOs and international development by Sarika Bansal. When you ask people what we mean by plain English, a typical answer is: 'getting rid of jargon'. But it's important to really think about what that means, who the jargon affects and what the alternatives might be.

Wherever you work, I can recommend collecting a list of jargon you come across regularly and including better ways of saying stuff in your style guide.

How metaphors can make or break your design

This blog post by John Saito is from 2017. I share it with you because I largely disagree with the bits that refer to using metaphors in writing.

Sure, visual metaphors are often necessary for all sorts of reasons. But there are few reasons to use a metaphor in your writing, unless it's for a specific audience that you are absolutely sure will get it. Or some branding shenanigans.

And if you are writing guidance content or, you know, really important information that helps people live their lives, just avoid metaphors altogether and forever. In fact, may I suggest simply writing in... plain English.

"Language matters. The words we use shape the stories we construct of people and places, and ultimately, the policies and decisions we make. Words can perpetuate dangerous stereotypes of the world’s poorest places. Words can uphold myths of what it takes to “develop” a place."
Sarika Bansal

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