Naseem Ammer Ali

Naseem Ameer Ali

Modernising Construction Contracts – by omitting Janus-faced verbal and other monstrosities
Whether renovating a home or building a bridge, the client and builder need a construction contract. Typically these are based on published standard forms written in legalese and administered by construction professionals. None of these parties are normally legally qualified. Research shows it is not only possible to write construction contracts in plain language without losing legal intent, but that it is necessary to do so. 

Among an exception to contracts written in legalese is the Standard Terms of Construction Contract for Renovation and Small Projects (STCC – RSP 2015) published by the Construction Industry Development Board Malaysia. Two case studies are presented to explain how research on modern legal drafting led to the drafting and implementation of this contract in two projects - one each in Malaysia and New Zealand. 

The contract adopts a user-friendly project management structure and other plain legal drafting principles such as omitting redundant legalese and doublets, avoiding multiple cross referencing, and using gender-neutral language without the cumbersome she, he, or it. It was endorsed by professional bodies in Malaysia and accredited as a Clear English Standard document by the Plain Language Commission, United Kingdom. 

Following a Malay translation, it is now being considered as a model to be modified to suit other jurisdictions. 


Judi Altinkaya

Judi Altinkaya

Eliminating the yeah nahs – Keeping it Clear for an audience new to New Zealand 
Moving to live and work in a new country involves finding out a great deal of information that locals simply take for granted. New Zealand organisations are very good at providing that information, however the information provided is not always written or presented in the most user friendly way.  

Keeping it Clear – a new guide written and produced by Immigration New Zealand - aims to address this by providing organisations with tips to follow when they are communicating with people new to New Zealand. 

Tips include keeping language short and simple, active and direct and avoiding idioms and ‘kiwi-isms’ that newcomers may not understand. 

We don’t realise that there are more than 25,000 idioms in the English language and we liberally scatter them through most information. These are extremely difficult for new speakers of English to understand. 

They can be the difference between a newcomer acting on information or ignoring it. 

Even the Kiwi expressions that we think nothing of, such as “bring a plate”, “box of birds” or “across the ditch” can have migrants, even from other English speaking countries, scratching their heads in confusion. Yeah, Nah… Absolutely!  

This session will introduce delegates to the guide and cover off some of the more important tips. 


John Ballingall

John Ballingall

Developing a culture of quality through external review
Presenting with Nicky Chilton and Judy Knighton. When you are a regulatory body in an active market, achieving your goals requires reports to government, the market, and consumers. The Electricity Authority is responsible for promoting competition, reliability, and efficiency in New Zealand’s electricity industry. The Authority needs its reports to be clear, accurate, logical, and effective. Three years ago, the Authority began a project to improve the quality of its analysis and writing, using two expert companies to review and evaluate a selection of reports each year.   Join representatives from the Electricity Authority, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, and Write Limited to find out how they have combined forces to improve communication to the electricity industry and members of the public.  Expect a brief overview of the first three years of the Report Review project, and the contribution made by each organisation, before we welcome questions on any aspect of the project.     Participants can come at this from so many angles! How does measurement feed into better writing? What impact does a project of this nature have on the in-house culture? How did we decide what to measure? How do the two different reviews (one for analysis and one for writing quality) complement one another? 


Cathy Basterfield

Cathy Basterfield

Access to Written Information: A social equity, social justice issue
Participation, inclusion and rights are intrinsic to the way we interact with our world. Providing information in Plain Language is one way to ensure more people can participate in their community, and know their rights and responsibilities.  Reading information about government services, your rights, information about laws, health information and access to corporate businesses should not become a reading test. However, for people who do not have functional literacy, these tasks do become reading tasks or tasks with which they do not engage at all. Information must be simpler.   44% of the adult Australian population (50% of the US, 44% of Canada and UK) have non functional literacy (PIAAC, 2013). New Zealand data has just been released in PIAAC, 2016. This data suggests there are many individuals not able to use the information written, even when it is in Plain Language.   We must talk to consumers – real consumers.   This paper will draw attention to the many people who are marginalised, and why they need Easy English. It will discuss this in the context of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), a new way for people with disability to access services in Australia and also in the context of Family Violence. 

Easy English - a case study: Hidden Discrimination - a discussion on barriers and facilitators to full participation
Vulnerable people are everywhere. Mostly they are hidden from mainstream media and our view of our communities. Non functional literacy is a hidden disadvantage, and many of these people can be the most vulnerable in our community. However, 49% of adults across 20 OECD countries have non functional literacy. (OECD,2013)

This discussion will use a case study to demonstrate how to access written information in a way someone can read and understand. Examples of Easy English will be shown that support fuller participation in society. Barriers to the development of Easy English and more inclusive participation will also be identified.  


Marie-Claire Belleau

Marie-Claire Belleau

The necessity of plain language for the 'New Jurist' 
Lawyers have great skills:  knowledge, rigour, eloquence, etc. They have traditionally fostered a hierarchical relationship with their clients by providing expert knowledge difficult, if not impossible, to assess by laypeople. At the same time, in North America, trials are vanishing. Costs are too high, delays too long, processes too complex. Increasing numbers of citizens go to trial without counsel. They question relations of authority in all areas of society.  They are better educated and have access to more information. They do not want to be told what to do.  

In this context, lawyers need to add to their classical skills by fostering relations of partnership and collaboration with their clients. Plain language in law is one essential skill required of legal counsels to convey the rules of law, thus making it possible for clients to make their own informed decisions.   

How is plain language essential to students of law and lawyers? Why do judges need to adopt plain language when addressing parties? How is the legal profession to adapt to these social changes, if not, by making law more accessible? How can plain language adepts convince colleagues of the importance of communicating law clearly and effectively? 


Elisa Berg

Elisa Berg

How to create an effective digital strategy for community legal information
For most legal organisations, websites play a critical role in providing legal information to their users. But websites need to be supported by effective digital strategies to engage with their intended audience.  To promote greater legal literacy and raise awareness of legal issues, organisations should consider how audiences engage with information in a range of formats and digital channels. This will make it more likely that organisations reach and motivate their target audiences.  This presentation uses Everyday-Law.org.au as an example to provide an introduction to digital strategy and its distinctive advantages for explaining the law to the general public.  


Mark Biss.jpg

Mark Biss

Quantifying the cost of confusion
"It’s the greatest expense you don't know you have". http://www.rswarren.com/index2.php (accessed 08/24/2016) 

How often do you have to deal with confusion in your workplace? 

Confusion is found in legislation, websites, emails, utility bills and payslips.  It drains resources and productivity. Knowing the cost is a starting point for tackling the often hidden (and accepted) problem of confusion. 

You will learn how confusion creates variance in an organisation resulting in missed targets. 

This interactive workshop will discuss common causes as well as the effects of confusion. A methodology for quantifying the cost of confusion in the workplace will be presented.  Given a specific scenario, you will have the opportunity of calculating the cost of confusion in a professional work environment. You will be asked to do some calculations so please bring a calculator. 


Alexia Black

Alexia Black

Why bother with accessibility
A presentation by Disabled Person’s Organisation People First New Zealand Ltd. Ngā Tāngata Tuatahi and the Donald Beasley Institute (DBI), an independent charitable trust that conducts research in the area of learning disability. 

In the first part of the session Alexia Black, Manager of People First’s Easy Read Translation Service, will discuss the case for creating and using accessible formats for legal documents and information. The presentation will begin with a look at the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – with a particular focus on Articles:  

9 – Accessibility (of information) 
12 – Equal recognition before the Law
13 – Access to Justice. 

The talk will introduce the audience to the concept and practicalities of working with Disabled Persons Organisations, and share learnings from the organisation’s journey to create: 

- the world’s first Easy Read Individual Employment Agreement
- New Zealand’s first Easy Read Will. 

In the second part of the session, Alexia will be joined by Dr Brigit Mirfin-Veitch (Director of the Donald Beasley Institute). The DBI is committed to achieving social change through transformative research. Ensuring that people with learning disability have access to research findings is one important step in this process. Brigit will describe how she has engaged with People First New Zealand Ngā Tāngata Tuatahi in the context of research, and will specifically draw on a recent project concerned with the experiences of people with learning disability in the legal system. 


Ralph Brown

Ralph Brown

The easy way to write and teach plain English 
Ralph Brown presents a writing and editing method consisting of just six simple ideas. It will help you achieve more clarity in less time.  

You can use the method in anything from a simple email to a complex report.  It’s relevant whether you work in law, government or business. 

This entertaining presentation will add a new focus to your own writing and give you an easy way to help your colleagues. 


Adam Bushby

Adam Bushby

Ruffle, trouble or vex?  The use of precise language in Australian legislation 
A constant task of the legislative drafter is to avoid using unclear, informal or otherwise imprecise language in legislation.  The inherent ambiguity and instability of language makes this task difficult if not impossible to achieve at all times.  However, the use of unclear language does not necessarily affect the efficacy of legislation.  It is only when a legal case is decided in a court of law that the meaning and practicality of legislation is more thoroughly scrutinised and tested.  This paper examines a few case studies in Australia on the use of unclear, informal or imprecise language in legislation, and discusses the effects of that language on statutory interpretation and on the efficacy of legislation.  The need to use precise language is particularly important when imposing serious obligations on members of the public, such as when creating criminal offences.  The case studies form the basis of a more general discussion on the use of both exhaustive and inclusive definitions in legislation.  The paper concludes by comparing the use of definitions with the more traditional approach of simply relying on the grammatical and ordinary meaning of language and allowing courts to judicially define words and phrases if necessary. 


Nicky Chilton

Nicky Chilton

Developing a culture of quality through external review
Presenting with John Ballingall and Judy Knighton. When you are a regulatory body in an active market, achieving your goals requires reports to government, the market, and consumers. The Electricity Authority is responsible for promoting competition, reliability, and efficiency in New Zealand’s electricity industry. The Authority needs its reports to be clear, accurate, logical, and effective. Three years ago, the Authority began a project to improve the quality of its analysis and writing, using two expert companies to review and evaluate a selection of reports each year. Join representatives from the Electricity Authority, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, and Write Limited to find out how they have combined forces to improve communication to the electricity industry and members of the public. Expect a brief overview of the first three years of the Report Review project, and the contribution made by each organisation, before we welcome questions on any aspect of the project. Participants can come at this from so many angles! How does measurement feed into better writing? What impact does a project of this nature have on the in-house culture? How did we decide what to measure? How do the two different reviews (one for analysis and one for writing quality) complement one another? 


Meghan Codd Walker

Meghan Codd Walker

Clear is cool: How to reach millennials with plain language
Presenting with Deanna Lorianni. Millennials are known for not doing “business as usual” — which makes communicating with this audience a challenge for many individuals and organizations. But, what many people don’t realize is how much Millennials’ communication expectations align with the growing need for plain language and clarity. In this presentation, we’ll share data-driven insight into why plain language is the perfect communication strategy for reaching Millennials. We’ll also provide writing and content tips for bringing your plain-language messaging to life.   

Attendees will gain: 

  •  Awareness into how plain language aligns with Millennial brand expectations 
  •  Insight into increasing transparency and building trust with this audience 
  •  Techniques for revising content  

People-First Language: Creating Clarity for People With Disabilities
Information accessibility and inclusiveness is at the heart of plain language. Yet for people with disabilities, the language used to communicate about and with them often fails to uphold these important communication traits. In this presentation, we will introduce what people-first language is and show why it matters for creating clarity and inclusiveness. We’ll illustrate how people-first language aligns with international plain language standards and provide tips for using this writing technique. 


Justine Cooper

Justine Cooper

Barriers and bureaucracy: The effect of government language on Australian Aboriginal communities
Presenting with Greg Moriarty. For Aboriginal people in Australian society, access to services is one of many obstacles on the path to equality and recognition. Policymakers, experts and communities all agree that change is essential and Aboriginal people must take part in that process. Yet how easy can this be in a system that uses overly complex language to dress up everyday information and actions?  

This paper examines the role that complexity can play in relations between Aboriginal communities and government. In the first half, the Foundation will present statistics on Aboriginal schooling and literacy rates, and outline the challenges many people face in accessing government and legal services. We will then show how complex government language can be. For this, we will analyse a variety of documents targeted at Aboriginal readers. The paper’s second half looks at case studies on the concrete steps we can take to break down the barriers that exist. We will show how a plain language edit can improve a document and hear anecdotally from those who work with the text about the benefits clear communication brings. 


Sue Costello

Sue Costello

Unlikely partners in business: literacy and plain language
Learn how adult literacy and plain language are intrinsically connected. 

Hear compelling stories from a now well-established program known as 26TEN, which is combining practical grass-roots action with evidence-based supporting frameworks.  

Take part in practical activities run as part of 26TEN’s free awareness workshops, designed to help people with good literacy and numeracy skills understand what it’s like when you don’t have those skills.  

See how Collective Impact, a model for social change, is helping to spread the use of plain language on a large scale and make a real difference to the lives of people with low literacy and numeracy skills.  

26TEN refers to the 26 letters of the alphabet we use for reading and writing, and the ten digits we use for counting. It is a growing network of business, community, government and individuals working together to improve adult literacy and numeracy.   

The state has a new ten-year plan for all Tasmanians to have the literacy and numeracy skills they need for work and life and one of the goals is for everyone to communicate clearly through the use of plain language. 

More and more people are coming on board – from manufacturing, healthcare, legal and accounting services, local and state government – and the stories starting to emerge are inspiring. 


Deborah Dye-Knighton

Deborah Dye-Knighton

Big Heels not Big Words: How plain English makes for effective lawyering
Lawyers have an obligation to ensure their clients understand the legal process and advice given. How can we use plain English to make our jobs easier? What about where English is not a first language for clients? How can we use plain English when our clients do not understand English? Where does culture fit into plain English in advocacy? How do we apply plain English across the board without patronizing and over simplifying? It often seems that people believe using big words is a sign of intelligence. Does plain English in law remove the need for lawyers? Are we writing ourselves out of work? In this session I will discuss how breath-taking shoes, and not words that take a breath to say, are the key to effective lawyering. Whether clients are refugees or Members of Parliament, teenage beneficiaries or surgeons, the law is the same, and we need to make the law accessible and understandable without further disempowering people. I believe that, like great shoes and good laws, plain English empowers the user to move forward.  We provide the Waka; where they paddle is up to them.   


David Ehrhardt

David Ehrhardt

Castalia plain language project
It’s not about fun—plain English is essential to our business 

We compete in an international market. Our expertise helps us win work but so too does our sharp, innovative thinking and clear writing. Ten years ago, we decided to focus on explaining complex and, at times, novel ideas simply and compellingly. Since then, we have grown 20 percent each year and expanded from our original two offices in Wellington and Paris to additional offices in Washington DC, New York, Sydney and Bogotá. Our uncompromising focus on clarity has played a major part in achieving that success. Our expectation of clear writing starts when staff are recruited and stops only when they leave. Our comprehensive plain English standard, developed after we first won “Best Organisation” in the 2007 WriteMark Plain English awards, is used by writers and reviewers every day. It has not been easy; it can be painful for staff—who are intelligent, highly qualified, and often multi-lingual. Regardless of where and when they may be working (often in difficult situations), their writing must comply with our standard. After our repeat win in the 2015 Write Mark Plain English awards, we reflected on the past 10 years. What we have achieved—for us and our clients—tells us the decision made 10 years was a wise one. 


Gina Frampton

Gina Frampton

Selling clear communication through the power of story
In this session we consider how to make a message about the value of clear communication engaging, memorable and inspiring for writers — especially writers who are busy, distracted, or committed to their usual way of doing things in the workplace.
Since sparks first flew upwards from camp fires, we’ve used stories to bind us as communities, to make sense of our histories, to let the world know what we consider to be important. Humans are primed to respond to stories — to personal details that point to universal truths, to private details that point to public themes. 

Today, in market places where brands go into battle with one another on billboards and letterheads, and in cyberspace where wars are fought daily for priority in readers’ inboxes, our stories need to be clear, persuasive and succinct. But perhaps, on occasion, they also need to touch our readers’ hearts. How do we make the story we tell about clear communication do that? 


Steven Graham

Steven Graham

The Strategic conversation is the new Strategy
Change is hard, but stagnation is fatal!

There’s a quick way to test the inherent value of your existing strategic plan. Does it plan for plausible future scenarios that don’t currently exist? 

Our current world view has conditioned us to think about the future at today’s rate of change, in a linear way (And while that rate is pretty fast, it’s nothing compared to what many of the experts say is coming, exponential change). 

What we have historically experienced, and what we think we know, simply won’t provide us with the necessary insights to create an accurate view of the emergent future.  Our traditional thinking models must be augmented with new thinking approaches that are more expansive and based on a trajectory of exponential change…essentially infusing a little more sci-fi.  

There are no longer ‘safe harbours’ or sacred cows – if you don't disrupt yourself, others will do it for you.  

Join me in exploring a rapidly changing world that necessitates courage, letting go, introducing new cultural values, developing new thinking models and conversing.  Navigating beyond the hype of technology buzzwords, exposing blind spots and bringing the disruptive conversation to the executive table will quite frankly be the difference between relevance and obsolescence. 


Phil Hartwick.jpg

Phil Hartwick

Engineering sticky change: A blueprint for amplifying the value of plain language training 
Presenting with Shaun Sheldrake. If you've ever hired in a plain language expert or delivered a plain language workshop yourself, you'll know that even top-rated training doesn’t always stick. Indeed, the hoped for transformation in writing style may be nowhere in sight! Worse still, skeptics may claim it was a waste of time and money.  

Engineering sticky change tackles an issue that we all recognise but find hard to overcome. Shaun Sheldrake and Phil Hartwick offer a compelling, yet beautifully simple, approach that virtually guarantees positive behavioral change and, ultimately, the desired business impact. 

Grounded in well-researched, evidence-based principles, this session will be a breath of fresh air for anyone who needs to achieve a clear return on investment from that precious training dollar. 


Simon Hertnon

Simon Hertnon

Five levers for improving the performance of writing teams
Are your writing teams consistently producing useful, cost-effective documents? Writing tools have changed and information volumes have proliferated, but most writing teams still function much as they did 20 years ago.  

Since 2004, Simon Hertnon has worked with dozens of writing teams as both teacher and consultant. He has concluded that tightening-up the writing process is the most powerful performance improvement lever available to those who manage writers. After all, what chance do writers have of performing optimally if their briefs are vague or their drafts are being edited by colleagues who haven’t been briefed at all? 

Drawing on the principles of plain language, productivity theories (such as Total Quality Management), and his own optimal performance frameworks, Simon shows how a simple process and clearly defined roles can positively transform the performance of any writing team. 

If you are a manager, trainer, or plain language practitioner, come along to learn how to assess the efficiency of your current writing process, and to quickly modify it to consisently produce better documents for less cost. Participants will have the opportunity to question Simon about how to overcome the challenges of improving writing processes at your organisation. 


Teresa Heinz Housel

It’s all in the claim: How to use solid reasoning to persuade audiences 
This speed-learning presentation covers how you can use inductive and deductive logic to create sound arguments in your documents. Audiences may disagree with your conclusion or your reasons (or both), but if your reasons are sound and the connection to the conclusion is strong, you’re more likely to convince. Let sound logic work to your advantage! 

We’ll cover key points of deductive and inductive arguments.  Then, we’ll look at how you can effectively use deductive and inductive reasoning to build arguments. For example, legal writing must have sound logic that links a final conclusion or recommendations to valid reasons. We’ll also talk about how you can use inductive and deductive reasoning to create solid arguments in other types of documents such as advisory reports.  


Cleo Igglesden

Cleo Igglesden

Short and sweet — 140 characters of pure business gold 
Presenting with Victoria Rea. 

  • 140 characters to represent your organisation’s brand  
  • 140 characters to deliver your message and connect with your clients  
  • 140 characters to make a profit and do better business in the fast-paced world of social media, every word — every character — counts.  

In this jam-packed 20 minute session, we’ll look at how you can make your social media campaigns more successful using plain language.  Vic and Cleo will take you through 5 easy tips and techniques. You’ll learn how to apply them to your own tweets, statuses, and 'grams (Instagram photos). Packed with practical hands-on learning — by the end of the session, you’ll be tweeting like a pro.  And you’ll have an open-and-shut case for why you need to be active in social media for business.


Judy Knighton

Judy Knighton

The chameleon writer: changing our writing to suit purpose and audience
 Join long-time business editor and writer Judy Knighton to uncover your innate skills in changing your tone, your pitch, and your selection of facts to suit your purpose and your audience. 
 
In a fun practical session that includes story-telling, exercises, and humour, Judy will draw out knowledge you didn't know you had about different styles of writing. Come along and try on diverse writing identities, such as journalist, government inspector, business analyst, novelist, or 'person who writes angry letters to the newspapers'. 
 
Along the way, you'll gain a new perspective on the place of tone and pitch in plain language.

Developing a culture of quality through external review
Presenting with Nicky Chilton and John Ballingall. When you are a regulatory body in an active market, achieving your goals requires reports to government, the market, and consumers. The Electricity Authority is responsible for promoting competition, reliability, and efficiency in New Zealand’s electricity industry. The Authority needs its reports to be clear, accurate, logical, and effective. Three years ago, the Authority began a project to improve the quality of its analysis and writing, using two expert companies to review and evaluate a selection of reports each year. Join representatives from the Electricity Authority, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, and Write Limited to find out how they have combined forces to improve communication to the electricity industry and members of the public. Expect a brief overview of the first three years of the Report Review project, and the contribution made by each organisation, before we welcome questions on any aspect of the project. Participants can come at this from so many angles! How does measurement feed into better writing? What impact does a project of this nature have on the in-house culture? How did we decide what to measure? How do the two different reviews (one for analysis and one for writing quality) complement one another? 


Megan Lane

Megan Lane

Design thinking to create plain English employment agreements
A case study about turning employment legalese into a plain English DIY tool for small businesses — with an interactive introduction to the role of design thinking in writing with clarity.  

We’ll look beneath the hood of the government’s Employment Agreement Builder, which recently transformed from an unwieldy online tool into something employers could use with confidence.  

To revamp it, business design studio Empathy went beyond switching "emolument" to "fees". We delved into what tripped employers up when hiring staff and explored ways a new tool could nip mistakes in the bud. This process is called design thinking, a technique for finding human-centred solutions to complex problems. 

We then worked with employment lawyers, labour inspectors and policy advisors to dig into legal requirements, best practice and common mistakes. The latter was a key feature of our content, as user testing and past projects showed the appetite for this among small businesses. 

Throughout, the writing team pushed and pulled the content into everyday language. Pushing and pulling continued during sign-off, but the lawyers delighted in how we balanced clarity with capturing the spirit of the law.  

Since launch, users consistently rank it 4 or 5 stars out of 5. 


Rachelle Lintao.png

Rachelle Lintao

Plain Writing in the Philippines: Accomplishments, Challenges and Opportunities from an Empirical Study
This presentation shows the results and implications of an empirically grounded study in transforming a Philippine consumer-finance contract into a plain-language document. Anchored on constructivism theory, the long and tedious work comprised of the following tasks: iterative testing before and after simplification; structural and cognitive simplification; protocol-aided revision; the use of the Stylewriter editing software; the assistance of plain language experts and validation of legal specialists.  The simplified document yielded favorable outcomes in terms of comprehensibility and readability. Additionally, results of the comparability study between the original and modified versions indicated statistically significant differences. These outcomes substantiated the positive gains resulting from the simplification process done. Minor redrafting was also employed based on the legal experts’ comments to ensure that all legalities were covered.   The results of the study were presented to the legal team of the XXX Bank Company whose document was used in the study. Despite the very commendable feedback given, several reservations still kept  the bank  from adopting the modernized version of the document.    In a country where the use of plain language in legal documents is still in its infancy, the Philippines serves as a very fertile ground where plain language work can flourish in the future.   


Deanna Lorianni

Deanna Lorianni

Clear is cool: How to reach millennials with plain language
Presenting with Meghan Codd Walker. Millennials are known for not doing “business as usual” — which makes communicating with this audience a challenge for many individuals and organizations. But, what many people don’t realize is how much Millennials’ communication expectations align with the growing need for plain language and clarity. In this presentation, we’ll share data-driven insight into why plain language is the perfect communication strategy for reaching Millennials. We’ll also provide writing and content tips for bringing your plain-language messaging to life.   

Attendees will gain: 

  •  Awareness into how plain language aligns with Millennial brand expectations 
  •  Insight into increasing transparency and building trust with this audience 
  •  Techniques for revising content 

People-First Language: Creating Clarity for People With Disabilities
Information accessibility and inclusiveness is at the heart of plain language. Yet for people with disabilities, the language used to communicate about and with them often fails to uphold these important communication traits. In this presentation, we will introduce what people-first language is and show why it matters for creating clarity and inclusiveness. We’ll illustrate how people-first language aligns with international plain language standards and provide tips for using this writing technique. 


Morag MacTaggart

Morag MacTaggart

The secret’s in the sentence – how to build beautiful sentences for a better world 
What do my readers really want and how do I deliver it? 

With the focus squarely on building a beautiful sentence, this 20 minute, hands on session will provide you with the answer to the question above and show you how to craft sentences that are precise, dynamic and coherent every time.  

You will: 

  • Learn about the pact of complicity that exists between all readers and writers and why as writers we must honour this pact 
  • Be given a detailed breakdown of the ideal English language sentence pattern and an explanation of why this sentence type is the most engaging for your readers 
  • Have a go at building your own sentences and at identifying the good, the bad and the ugly in other writers’ sentences 
  • Take away easy to remember tips for building beautiful sentences every time. 

  “Readers are not sheep, and not every pen tempts them.”    

Vladimir Nabokov


Stuart McLaren

Stuart McLaren

Accessibility or bamboozlement?  The case for clarity and plain language in law and legal processes 
This year the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 came into force and few pieces of recently introduced legislation will affect the daily lives of the general population so drastically. A number of complex terms and language have been introduced which are confusing, complicated, contradictory (in meaning) and unnecessary. These terms include Legislative Instruments, Disallowable Instruments, Safe Work Instruments etc. Understanding of these is vital in determining the legal status of these “instruments” of law.  
 
These terms were introduced into legislation in an inconsistent and haphazard fashion. Untila recent amendment, it was not explained that "legislative instruments" were synonymous with "sets of regulations". This was determined by the comparing definitions in separate pieces of legislation. In this Act the two terms are used interchangeably without any apparent reason. 

Similar examples from Australia will be included for comparative purposes. 
 
A disallowable instrument is another highly confusing, contradictory and unnecessary term.  
 
There is no good reason to introduce complex and confusing terms to essentially bamboozle the general population. Ignorance of the law is often not accepted as an excuse for offending. However it is equally important that legislation must be accessible and reasonably understood by those that are affected.


Brigit Mirfin-Veitch

Brigit Mirfin-Veitch

Why bother with accessibility?
Dr Brigit Mirfin-Veitch (Director of the Donald Beasley Institute) will be joining Alexia Black to discuss accessibility. The DBI is committed to achieving social change through transformative research. Ensuring that people with learning disability have access to research findings is one important step in this process. Brigit will describe how she has engaged with People First New Zealand Ngā Tāngata Tuatahi in the context of research, and will specifically draw on a recent project concerned with the experiences of people with learning disability in the legal system. 


Eamonn Moran

Eamonn Moran

Looking back, looking forward: the contribution of an outside irritant to plain legislative language
In August 1986 the then Law Reform Commission of Victoria published a Discussion Paper Legislation, Legal Rights and Plain English.  This was followed by two landmark reports on the language, structure and format of legislation.  Now at the 30 year mark this session will look at the impact of the work of the Commission and at what was adopted and at what was not adopted by the drafting community.  The session will conclude by considering whether in the Australian context there is still a need to advocate plain legislative drafting.


Hannah Morgan-Stone

Hannah Morgan-Stone

Plain to all: Using logic to distil complex thinking into clear documents. 
The Electricity and Gas Complaints Commissioner’s office (EGCC) will show how it uses storylines to map the logic before drafting decisions about complaints.  

As a consumer complaints scheme, EGCC uses storylines to tackle these challenges:

  • How can we help parties to understand the reasons for our decisions, even if they don’t like the outcome?
  • How can we distil complex background information and our reasons for a decision into a clear document?
  • How can we streamline the process for reviewing and approving draft documents?
  • Storylines can be used to prepare clear reports, recommendations, and proposals in any subject area.  

Learn the basics about how to: 

  • Use inductive and deductive logic to build persuasive arguments 
  • Check whether content is truly relevant and necessary 
  • Structure documents so the main messages are plain to all 

Be inspired to overcome hurdles and make structured thinking stick in your organisation. 


Greg Moriarty.jpg

Greg Moriarty

Barriers and bureaucracy: The effect of government language on Australian Aboriginal communities
Presenting with Justice Cooper. For Aboriginal people in Australian society, access to services is one of many obstacles on the path to equality and recognition. Policymakers, experts and communities all agree that change is essential and Aboriginal people must take part in that process. Yet how easy can this be in a system that uses overly complex language to dress up everyday information and actions?  

This paper examines the role that complexity can play in relations between Aboriginal communities and government. In the first half, the Foundation will present statistics on Aboriginal schooling and literacy rates, and outline the challenges many people face in accessing government and legal services. We will then show how complex government language can be. For this, we will analyse a variety of documents targeted at Aboriginal readers. The paper’s second half looks at case studies on the concrete steps we can take to break down the barriers that exist. We will show how a plain language edit can improve a document and hear anecdotally from those who work with the text about the benefits clear communication brings. 


Sissel Motzfeldt

Sissel Motzfeldt

With A Little Help From My Friends
Presenting with Ragnhild Samuelsberg. Politicians, laws and rock and roll – changing the Norwegian Law Making Process 

Norwegian citizens have too long tacitly accepted legalese, a language preventing understanding and participation. In our experience the process of changing the language in laws, can be compared to the long winters in Norway. The process is hard, snowy, slippery, but also fun and filled with speed and excitement. In this session you will meet two unorthodox bureaucrats who have willingly taken the mission of fighting the fog. In short, as we say in Norway, we have made snowballs roll. Our presentation is based on five years ofwork with the Clear Law Project in Central Government. We are delighted to share our experience in developing clarity in Norwegian laws. It's all about persistency, persuasion and transformation.  


Mami Okawara

Mami Okawara

Lay Perception versus Legal Reasoning 
The law is a profession of words, as stated by David Mellinkoff in the Language of Law.  Yet ‘words’ are rather a monopoly of legal experts, though ‘words’ make an effect on the life of lay people. 

Among various systems of law in Japan, I take up the civil code, which is strongly related to private relations between lay people.  I have selected sixteen words which illustrate the basic concept of the civil code from the technical terms of the Japanese civil code. In order to obtain lay people’s thoughts on the sixteen legal terms, I have conducted a survey, using a field research method called cognitive interviewing.  The respondents of this survey were asked whether they have heard each of the sixteen words.  If they answered ‘yes’, they were asked how well they felt they knew the word.  After that, they were encouraged to talk freely about the word they felt they knew.  By doing so, I have collected verbal information on the basic words of the civil code. 

In the presentation I would also like to discuss the ‘language’ gap of the sixteen legal terms between the dictionary for legal experts and the dictionary for lay people. 


Ingrid Olsson

Ingrid Olsson

He or she or hen - the birth and establishing of a gender neutral pronoun in Swedish
During the last years Sweden has seen the birth of a gender neutral pronoun: ”hen”, alongside he, she and it.

“Hen” was born as an unrealistic dream in the 1960’s, but had its breakthrough in 2012, with the release of the children’s book “Kivi and the Monster Dog” featuring “hen” and never revealing the gender of the characters.

A huge debate followed. Some embraced “hen”, some raged about it. Magazines with only this pronoun were published, a “henerator” changed all pronouns on websites into “hen” etc.

Since then “hen” has had a meteoric career, and it is now included in the official Swedish dictionary.

The pronoun is useful in texts where gender is unknown or of no importance. This is common in the public sector, where we tend to talk about the citizen, the customer or the reader.

“Hen” is also used for persons not comfortable with the binary pronouns he or she.

Language advisers were first sceptic to the idea of introducing a new pronoun. But following the rapid development, advice has changed from “use other strategies for gender neutrality” to “you might use ‘hen’ but be aware of possible reactions” into simply “how to use the pronoun ‘hen’”.


Andrew Pegler

Andrew Pegler

Beyond all reasonable doubt: The marketing advantages of plain English insurance and banking contracts
On meeting a stranger we have one fundamental question – are they friend or foe? And everything that follows is based on the decision we make.

For this reason, insurers, banks and financial planners need to avoid an overture to potential customers that creates suspicion. These interactions ­are generally characterised by obfuscation and, therefore, confusion, and lead to misunderstandings and misplaced customer expectations.

Obscure language promotes doubt, and doubt leads to hesitation and fear of engagement, which, in turn, creates suspicion. If you accept that trust is the most valuable brand asset any insurer, bank or financial planner can own then the marketing case for plain English contracts is self-evident. After all, it takes years for a brand to build trust but only a whiff of suspicion to erode it.

Plain English consumer contracts present information that people can understand and act on with confidence. They can put your brand beyond all reasonable doubt and, therefore, beyond the mortal threat that suspicion poses.

Drawing on his 15 years of experience as a plain English editor and writer, and using real examples of his recent work with Australia’s biggest banks, insurance companies and financial institutions like CGU Insurance and NAB, Andrew Pegler will present the compelling marketing case for plain English contracts. 


Ben Piper

Ben Piper

What if there was a revolution and no one knew about it ? Exploring the disconnect between plain laws and plain language
Laws are among the most complex legal documents known to humankind.  If they could be written in plain language, then there would be no reason why all legal documents couldn’t be written in plain language.  This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first laws that were deliberately written as plain language laws.  The Government that wrote them is still writing all of its laws in plain language, as now are many other Governments.  Yet in legal writing generally, plain language is still the exception, rather than the rule, and is still a matter of controversy.   How can this be ?  This session will explore the history of the use of plain language in laws, and the lessons that that history provides for the use of plain language generally.  


Claudia Poblete

Claudia Poblete

How to teach plain language writing to law students
Going to university involves challenges for students as they are educated within a specialised academic community. They need to understand the key strategies to become part of that community, and be able to produce academic writing.  

At the same time, this process — academic literacy — will allow them to be part of a scientific and professional community in the future (Radloff and de la Harpe, 2000). For this reason, many universities around the world have introduced writing programmes and workshops, understanding that teaching them to write specialised texts is essential.  

In 2011, the Faculty of Law at the Catholic University of Valparaiso, Chile (PUCV) included four compulsory courses in linguistic skills, called ‘Strategies’. These courses are offered during the first four years of the programme, and one of them is ‘Strategies for producing a written discourse’. The course primarily aims to teach students to develop strategies for writing clear text that can be understood by the varied audiences they will encounter as lawyers. 


Victoria Rea

Victoria Rea

Short and sweet — 140 characters of pure business gold 
Presenting with Cleo Igglesden. 

  • 140 characters to represent your organisation’s brand  
  • 140 characters to deliver your message and connect with your clients  
  • 140 characters to make a profit and do better business in the fast-paced world of social media, every word — every character — counts.  

In this jam-packed 20 minute session, we’ll look at how you can make your social media campaigns more successful using plain language.  Vic and Cleo will take you through 5 easy tips and techniques. You’ll learn how to apply them to your own tweets, statuses, and 'grams (Instagram photos). Packed with practical hands-on learning — by the end of the session, you’ll be tweeting like a pro.  And you’ll have an open-and-shut case for why you need to be active in social media for business.


Ragnhild Samuelsberg

Ragnhild I. Samuelsberg

With A Little Help From My Friends
Presenting with Sissel C. Motzfeldt. Politicians, laws and rock and roll – changing the Norwegian Law Making Process 

Norwegian citizens have too long tacitly accepted legalese, a language preventing understanding and participation. In our experience the process of changing the language in laws, can be compared to the long winters in Norway. The process is hard, snowy, slippery, but also fun and filled with speed and excitement. In this session you will meet two unorthodox bureaucrats who have willingly taken the mission of fighting the fog. In short, as we say in Norway, we have made snowballs roll. Our presentation is based on five years ofwork with the Clear Law Project in Central Government. We are delighted to share our experience in developing clarity in Norwegian laws. It's all about persistency, persuasion and transformation.  


Sonia Sanchez Moreno

Sonia Sanchez Moreno

Communication with diverse communities: back to basics 
Does your organisation have a comprehensive communication strategy? Does it include providing access to appropriate language services to your clients, customers and other stakeholders who do not speak English well? If not, why not? this session will provide hands-on, practical advice on what to do about it. 


Gabriella Sandstrom

Gabriella Sandström

Crystal clear e-services – behind the scenes 
Each year the Language Council of Sweden awards a prize, the Plain Swedish Crystal, to a public authority or a local municipality for its plain language efforts. Each year’s Crystal has a different theme. In 2016 the theme was “plain language in e-services”.  Of course, an e-service must be well-functioning technically. But it is also important that the keywords are consistent and that the instructions are comprehensible to the user. Buttons, arrows and other symbols must be clear, and the tone must be friendly.   Looking through processes behind the services nominated for this year’s Crystal, we found several key factors that were common to them all:

  • Focus on the users´ needs 
  • Knowledge from earlier experiences about what users find difficult  
  • Close co-operation between experts, lawyers, writers, and developers  
  • Short texts – only the necessary content  
  • Consistent and plain terminology 

This presentation will show you examples from three successful e-services, and look into the work behind them.  After the presentation you are invited to discuss best practices for comprehensive and clear e-services. 


Cushla Scholfied

Cushla Scholfied

Taming the sharks — driving business and illuminating the law
Laws are changing around the world to help protect consumers and encourage the right choices when getting products and services. The changes present a challenge and opportunity for businesses and lawyers, and a potential golden age for plain language. Translating complex legal ideas and documents into plain language is good for business.  

Consumers make better informed decisions, with greater trust. Plain language provides a better consumer experience and drives consumer satisfaction. 

Businesses save time, reduce complaints, and have a chance to make sure the previously boring ‘legal stuff at the end’ reflects and adds to the brand they work so hard to develop. 

Laws previously focused on making sure businesses gave specific information, assuming a wide range of information would help consumers make informed decisions.  

But experiences from the global financial crisis have shown that more information is not necessarily good information. 

Plain language stands as a beacon – writing to be easily understood and to help drive the right behaviour. 

The session covers one lawyer’s journey into the light. It outlines how plain language and the law deliver the right outcomes for businesses and consumers. 


Shaun Sheldrake

Shaun Sheldrake

Engineering sticky change: A blueprint for amplifying the value of plain language training 
Presenting with Phil Hartwick. If you've ever hired in a plain language expert or delivered a plain language workshop yourself, you'll know that even top-rated training doesn’t always stick. Indeed, the hoped for transformation in writing style may be nowhere in sight! Worse still, skeptics may claim it was a waste of time and money.  

Engineering sticky change tackles an issue that we all recognise but find hard to overcome. Shaun Sheldrake and Phil Hartwick offer a compelling, yet beautifully simple, approach that virtually guarantees positive behavioral change and, ultimately, the desired business impact. 

Grounded in well-researched, evidence-based principles, this session will be a breath of fresh air for anyone who needs to achieve a clear return on investment from that precious training dollar. 


Vanessa Simon

Vanessa Simons

How ‘in respect of’ became ‘about’ 
In this session, Financial Markets Authority (FMA) head of corporate legal Vanessa Simons and strategic communications manager Kate Woodruffe will discuss why and how the FMA is working towards a plain English style. In particular they will discuss the work they are doing to improve the legal guidance the FMA produces for the financial services sector.   

Bringing people together from two different perspectives and skillsets (legal and comms) to move towards a plain English style presents some challenges for authors, editors and managers. Vanessa and Kate will share their views and experiences of those challenges and how lawyers and communicators can collaborate to make legal content easier for a general audience to understand. Delegates will be encouraged to participate in discussion during the session, and there will be a Q&A session at the end of the presentation.   

The FMA regulates New Zealand’s capital markets and financial services.  Our vision is to promote and facilitate the development of fair, efficient and transparent financial markets. Our approach to regulation is based on proactive and extensive engagement with businesses and individuals. We’ve committed to using plain English to make regulatory compliance easier, and to help New Zealanders make better investment decisions.  

 


Katherine Spivey

Katherine Spivey

Acquisition and government contracts: Advances in plain language
One of the last frontiers of plain language in the US federal government is acquisition/procurement language.

Many agencies have made great strides in changing their language: lawyers, tax correspondence, health information, and benefits. However, contracts — and people who deal with them to buy products, services, and solutions to carry out their agency’s mission — are rarely in plain language.

People make the usual arguments: the lawyers blessed it, it worked last time, we can’t change things, and people are used to it.

But to make it easier for customers, one agency — the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) — did. Staff looked at a regularly reported pain point: the instructions to suppliers on how to sell information technology to other federal agencies, and decided they could do better.

The results? The Making it Easier Initiative and the Schedule 70 Roadmap, both on GSA.gov.


Jo Stewart

Jo Stewart 

Labours of Hercules: improving technical writing at the Australian Taxation Office
In this session, I’ll talk about my experiences of trying to help the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to improve our legal writing. I’ve been working on it since 2006 in a number of different ways, and have had a lot of opportunities to observe what not to do. We’re now trying to apply some of what we’ve learned to approach the task differently. I’m going to talk a little about the various obstacles, systemic problems, and other hindrances we’ve faced over the years. Then, looking forward and drawing from those experiences, I’ll outline how our new approach deals creatively with some of these seemingly impossible labours – without the need for herculean strength or huge resources. Anyone interested in improving technical writing in an organisational setting will find much to relate to, and may also get some fresh ideas to try in their organisations.  


Colleen Trolove

Colleen Trolove

Using empathy maps and literacy statistics to understand your readers better
Who is your reader — really? Get a better idea of what state your reader is in when they pick up your document, and what capacity they have to understand it. In this 20-minute session, you’ll practise using an empathy map and learn more about how to take into account different literacy levels when communicating.  

 


Dinah Vincent

Dinah Vincent

Demonstrate leadership in plain language – commission clearly  
Clear commissions, or briefs, are your chance to demonstrate leadership, by giving writers direction.  

 Taking the time to commission writers tells them you are serious about plain English, and that you expect them to write the best possible document for your readers. Over time, you’ll see writers develop more skill and confidence because they know what is expected of them.  

This speed learning session will show you how to use your knowledge and expertise to commission effectively. 

  • You’ll review a commissioning model built on the principles of plain English.  
  • You’ll consider what you need to add or change to make the model work for you and the writers you commission. 
  • You’ll think about how much time you can save when you no longer have to rewrite documents.
  • You’ll see how a commission helps with feedback, peer review, and quality assurance. 

Richard Wallace

Richard Wallace

Designing a statute book for the 21st century 
Most of New Zealand’s legislation was made available on the NZ Legislation website in 2008.  Our goal of making legislation accessible to all was finally realised!  Or so we thought.   

We now know that was just the beginning.  Access is more than simply being able to obtain a copy of legislation, or writing it using plain language.  Legislation is no longer the domain of experts.  Today, anyone who has access to the Internet can use it.  We need to make legislation available in a way that meets the needs and expectations of those users, and reflects their understanding of it. 

The shift to online legislation provides an opportunity to consider what effective communication means when we take advantage of today’s technology, and plan for tomorrow’s. 

This session will focus on— 

  • the opportunities that are available when legislation is viewed as an electronic data-set, rather than words printed in a series of books: 
  • methods for communicating information to people who do not know they need it: 
  • how we can simplify a vast, complex, and interrelated statute book:   
  • the Access to Subordinate Instruments Project (http://www.pco.parliament.govt.nz/asip/):   
  • how more effective communication and better document design may lead to better legislative outcomes. 

Sheryl Ward

Sheryl Ward

'Too much time spent on grammer!" (sic)
High-level writing skills are a core competency for all front line workers in the justice, medical and community services areas. 

Yet training in this vital aspect of their job tends to be somewhat ad hoc with theresult that key documents such as case notes and court reports are often of varied quality within a service.  

This session reports on some of the common writing problems identified as a training consultant during 15 years of working with front line workers. Such problems include limited understanding of the mechanics of English including spelling, and lack of confidence in selecting relevant information.   

It also offers some solutions that help front line workers to produce clear, accurate, and relevant documents that will stand up to public scrutiny.  


Verity White

Verity White

Get your contracts eReady
Simplify your contracts & get your lawyers on-board 

The world is moving too fast for paper and if your contracts aren't optimised for electronic signatures and automated processes, your business will be left behind. 

Achieving true clarity in business requires the contract of the future to be innovative and efficient. 

Verity is a driven and forward-thinking telecommunications lawyer who has gently wrestled various complicated agreements, contracts and confusing business processes into electronic submission. 

This session is a quick and simple “How to guide” tailored to guiding you along the right path towards a proactive, future-proof contract process. It's a bridge between the contract of tomorrow and the contract of yesterday. 

After this session, you will be equipped with practical tools and tactics which will enable you and your organisation to build that bridge and increase clarity in contracting, including: 

  • What to get out of your old contract format right now 
  • A checklist for quickly optimising any contract and getting it eReady 
  • How to create an electronically optimised Key Terms table 
  • What (and who) may hold you back on your mission 
  • How to structure a futuristic contract 
  • How to increase clarity to reduce or prevent misunderstandings 

Anniken Willumsen

Anniken Willumsen

Measuring the results of plain language work – Success stories from Norway
We all “know” the benefits of plain language. Through the years, we have experienced that plain language can save time and money, and make the users satisfied. But can we prove it? One of the challenges of plain language work has traditionally been to document the concrete results. We all know that plain language is effective and user friendly, but can we actually measure the effects? Can we get the evidence in numbers and figures? And can we use the evidence to convince managers to see the importance of plain language work? In Norway we wanted to explore this, and we have encouraged public agencies and ministries to measure the effects of their plain language work.  In my presentation, I will describe the different ways some of the agencies have worked, how they measured, and the results they achieved. You will for instance learn about one municipality that saved money in elderly care, after changing the language in one letter. Another government agency could document a positive change of culture inside the agency, after measuring results due to plain language work. 


Patrick Wilson

Patrick Wilson

Clarifying board papers 
This session aims to provide you with the knowledge and confidence to present your board with the best possible paper, leading to the best outcome for you and your organisation. 

Your board is accountable for your organisation’s performance. And board papers should reflect this. 

But we tend to write board papers in soft, flowery language. We fill board papers with clutter—‘the official language used by corporations to hide their mistakes’—that hides our paper’s purpose. This session will examine common paper writing pitfalls and how to avoid them. But we will also discuss how to:   

  • garner board support for your movement toward a plain English board pack  
  • reduce board paper length   
  • disseminate the information across your organisation, and  
  • get buy-in from the rest of the organisation. 

Kate Woodruffe

Kate Woodruffe

How ‘in respect of’ became ‘about’ 
In this session, Financial Markets Authority (FMA) head of corporate legal Vanessa Simons and strategic communications manager Kate Woodruffe will discuss why and how the FMA is working towards a plain English style. In particular they will discuss the work they are doing to improve the legal guidance the FMA produces for the financial services sector.   

Bringing people together from two different perspectives and skillsets (legal and comms) to move towards a plain English style presents some challenges for authors, editors and managers. Vanessa and Kate will share their views and experiences of those challenges and how lawyers and communicators can collaborate to make legal content easier for a general audience to understand. Delegates will be encouraged to participate in discussion during the session, and there will be a Q&A session at the end of the presentation.   

The FMA regulates New Zealand’s capital markets and financial services.  Our vision is to promote and facilitate the development of fair, efficient and transparent financial markets. Our approach to regulation is based on proactive and extensive engagement with businesses and individuals. We’ve committed to using plain English to make regulatory compliance easier, and to help New Zealanders make better investment decisions.