1. Introduction

The purpose of this report is to look at the experiences of others who use plain language, and to recommend a plan the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) could follow to implement plain language use.

2. Background

The NWT Literacy Council has been training GNWT employees to write in plain language for a number of years. During 2001-2002, 127 employees participated in introductory plain language workshops. The Council has continued to deliver training, including two workshops in early 2004.

The Council produced a Plain Language Handbook and a Plain Language Audit Tool. These projects were funded by the GNWT Department of Education, Culture and Communications. The Council distributed the books widely within government.

The evaluation of the plain language workshops in 2002-03 showed that people who take the training use what they have learned in their work. However, they say that training is not leading to strategies to use plain language within the government.

The GNWT has made little progress in adopting plain language writing, either internally, or in communications with the public. People continue to have difficulty using various government forms and understanding public documents.

Workshop participants’ suggestions for action
Following plain language workshops, GNWT workers suggest a range of actions the government could take to increase plain language use.

  • Make available within government an editor, mentor, or group to review written work.
  • Identify application forms, travel claim forms, and assistance forms for review and plain language editing.
  • Monitor and give positive reinforcement to develop a plain language pattern.
  • Dispel the myth that plain language is dummying down. Help people understand that it is about clarifying the message.
  • Make introductory and intermediate level plain language training mandatory throughout the government, rather than an option.
  • Find a plain language champion, or “put someone dynamic in charge.”
  • Contract plain language services from professional consultants.
  • Managers must look critically at existing documents and put money in place to revise them.
  • We need the buy-in of the Deputy Minister of each department. Start with a GNWT policy and then work on departmental policies from there.