Pl(ai)n speaking

Every profession and occupation develops their own jargon and technical language to aid communication between experts and colleagues.

When it comes to communicating with the community or other professions, this can create barriers to understanding.

Nowhere is this more evident than in government communications. Public servants often struggle to communicate complex policies and laws without reverting to ‘insider’ or complex language. Sometimes this is due to legal requirements or complex terms used in certain professions. However, for the most part it occurs because that’s how public servants have been trained and culturalized to communicate.

Use of plain language isn’t just a nice-to-have, it can save lives in the case of medical and other communications.
What does plain language mean? There’s no single definition. However, it includes concise sentences, positive clauses, active voice, verbs instead of nouns and common words rather than jargon

Plain language also supports diversity. Folks with lower education or English as a second language find it easier to understand and correctly act on.

While there’s been many attempts to encourage plain language, few have had success at creating lasting cultural change at scale.

As a result, New Zealand is currently considering legislation to compel NZ public servants to communicate in plain language.

The Plain Language Bill before NZ parliament argues that comprehensible information from government organizations is a democratic right.

The Bill doesn’t have enforcement mechanisms and relies on the public service providing guidelines on what plain language means.

That might seem to make it a weak law. However, the US experience with their Plain Writing Act (passed 2010), was that government communications improved over time.

We’ll have to wait and see if NZ’s Act moves the needle on government communications. Other governments will be watching to see if they should pass similar laws.

Writing in plain language supports your staff and customers. It helps them understand their rights and obligations and how to use products and services safely. It can open new markets for your business amongst people who find your marketing or instructions hard to follow.

Fortunately organizations are no longer reliance on spending lots of staff time converting documents into plain language. Artificial Intelligence is capable of rewriting complex documents, web pages and scripts into plain language quickly and cheaply.

We’re introducing this feature in our reKnow Summarizer service. Summarizer can take complex legal and technical documents and rewrite them into a plain language summary. Our AI will learn through use. We’ll also release features over time to allow our subscribers to choose the language level they want.

We’re also able to deliver this as a custom solution for an organisation. As a project for mass conversion of existing documents to plain language, or an ongoing service supporting your team.

Get in touch at to discuss how AI could help your organisation transform its documents into plain language.