The Center for Plain Language is on a quest to rid the world of ambiguous and confusing language, one organization at a time. The Center’s mission is to increase the usefulness and efficiency of government, legal, and business documents, so that the people who use those documents can quickly and easily find what they need, understand what they find, and act on that understanding.

Plain Language supports communication by focusing on the audience and its needs,” says the Center’s Executive Director, Thom Haller. “It helps people find and use information quickly and effectively by organizing material in the way they want it, and speaking in terms they understand. Research shows that plain language saves time and money for the writer and the reader. For example, after rewriting one standard letter into plain language, one federal office received only 20% as many inquiries from customers as it had before rewriting the letter.”

While reducing customer inquiries is quite an accomplishment, this week the Associated Press (AP) drew attention to a recent Plain Language success that yielded some rather impressive monetary benefits. The Washington State Department of Revenue rewrote a single letter using Plain Language and tripled the number of businesses paying a widely ignored “use tax”, netting the state an extra $800,000 in tax revenue.

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“Simple changes can have profound results,” Janet Shimabukuro, manager of Revenue’s taxpayer services program told AP. “Plain talk isn’t only rewriting, it’s rethinking your approach and really personalizing your message to the audience and to the reader.”

Most technical communicators and web content creators have yet to embrace Plain Language, but Haller expects that to change. “We’re seeing an increasing interest from organizations that understand the benefits of clear, concise communication. Plain Language can provide many usability benefits, but it can also provide help improve translation efforts, drastically reducing translation costs.”

To get involved, consider joining The Center for Plain Language.

About the Center for Plain Language

The Center for Plain Language is a 501(c)(3) corporation established to propel the belief that government and business communication can be clear and understandable. This unique collaboration of academic, government, and private sectors promotes research, education, and use of plain language.

Plain Language Resources