Celebrate International Plain Language Day

~The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest component.~

William Zinsser – On Writing Well

President Obama Signing the Plain Writing Act of 2010

President Obama Signing the Plain Writing Act of 2010

On October 13th, 2010, President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010.

His pen strokes were not the culmination but the commencement of a labor shared by government entities around the world and transpiring across industries as diverse as health care and finance.

As early as 1921, geologist George Smith pled with fellow United States Geological Survey employees to write more plainly.

South Africa has recently seen a dramatic increase in regulation intended to protect consumers.

In 1993, the Plain Language Association INternational was founded to raise awareness and discover solutions.

The US Department of Health and Human Resources acknowledges that less than 15% of the United States population has the ability to read and understand information related to our own health.

Elizabeth Warren, professor of contract law at Harvard Law School and Chair of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), put forth a simple (indeed, one might call it modest) proposal to eliminate the fine print in financial contracts. (She’s currently running for Senate in Massachusetts.)

Kate Harrison-Whiteside

Kate Harrison-Whiteside, co-founder of Plain Language Association INternational

In honor of these efforts, Kate Harrison Whiteside and Cheryl Stephens, two recognized leaders in the field of plain language, designated October 13th International Plain Language Day. Celebrations are being planned worldwide.

A live lunchtime festival in Ottawa

A tie-in with the Plain Swedish conference

A contest for the most terrible piece of government writing in Atlanta

A workshop on Implementing the Plain Writing Act held by the Center for Plain Language in Washington, DC

Cheryl Stephens
Cheryl Stephens, co-founder of Plain Language Association INternational

A Los Angeles campaign to promote awareness county-wide

A contest for the worst example of gov-speak in South Africa

And if you’d like to celebrate alongside your peers and get support for your own efforts at plain language, join me, The Corporate Writing Pro, in Prevent Lubricious Abstruse Incognizable Nonsense, a webinar in PLAIN language, on October 13th, with three chances to participate: 10 a.m., 2 p.m., or 5 p.m. (all times ET).

In each 45-minute session, plain language will be put into a global, multi-industrial context. You’ll get examples and practical tips for how to implement plain writing in your own work, no matter how complicated your subject matter. And in closing, you’ll receive an alternative to this ridiculous title, one that allows you to establish a working relationship with your reader.

However you plan to celebrate, remember – plain language is a civil right.


  1. […] is still just as frightening to me as it was when I first read it. I was pleased to read in a previous post of Michelle’s that the signing of the Plain Writing Act has mobilized certain sectors of the […]

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