Lessons Learned

  • Promote plain language over the long term. Regular promotion keeps other priorities and issues from replacing plain language as a priority.
  • Make staff conscious about how their writing adopts the language of government.
  • Focus on all staff, not just on professional communicators. When not all staff is trained to write in plain language, communications people have to think through the plain language process and sell editing and design changes to the original author or department. And, not all departments or regions have professional communicators. As well, senior document reviewers may make changes that are inconsistent with plain language practice.

4.6 Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

The department of Agriculture and Rural Development protects the water and land in rural Alberta for agriculture, markets Alberta farm and food industry products, and gives money to farmers during drastic events that affect their income, such as droughts.

Plain Language in a Communications Plan
Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development included plain language in its 1994 communications plan, the first communications plan within the Alberta government.

The department identified and brought together key communicators from each branch in 1994 to promote plain language. These people shared information with all other staff within their branch. There are 55 key communicators among the 12-1300 staff members.

The department hired a consultant to evaluate the forms used by the department, to survey the users of forms, and to provide staff training. Training included train-the-trainer aspects and led to the development of peer reviewers and plain language resource people within the department.

Monitoring and evaluation of plain language communications is done through surveys with audiences the department is trying to reach.

The focus on plain language within Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development is led by the human resources division. It emphasizes plain language within the department, as well as with the public.

The guidelines for the key communicators describe successful communication as:

  • Concise, open, honest, timely and direct
  • Two-way and allows everyone involved to give feedback
  • Accurate and in plain language