The Commission suggests being sensitive to staff who resist plain language.

  • Deal with peoples’ fear of exposing their ignorance, incompetence, or lack of writing skills.
  • Make sure there are no penalties when people use plain language, for example when they are clear about issues and make commitments in writing.
  • Encourage plain language, rather than police it.

4.3 Ontario Securities Commission

The Ontario Securities Commission administers and enforces securities legislation in the Province of Ontario. It protects investors, and maintains public and investor confidence in the marketplace.

A Plain Language Directive
The Ontario Securities Commission has no formal plain language policy for its staff. The move toward plain language is a result of a directive from the Commission’s Executive Director.

In 2001-02, all 300-400 staff members took plain language writing training. Two training streams were set up, with lawyers and accountants taking legal writing training, and communications and administration staff taking a more general workshop. Training for new staff and refresher courses are ongoing. The cost of initial training was approximately $90,000.

The Ontario Commission is adapting the British Columbia Securities Commission style guide. A plain language audit will result in templates to include in the Ontario guide. The Commission submitted 60 documents for its audit. This audit will also serve as a baseline for future evaluations of how well the Commission is doing in communicating with the public and investors.

The audit is costing between $10,000 and $20,000. The other major cost is the time dedicated by staff.

The Commission is looking at setting up mentoring and peer review programs in the coming year.

Lessons Learned

  • Support from senior management must include a willingness to fight for training money and include clear writing as part of performance reviews. Employees need to know that this is how the organization wants to be perceived and how they are expected to contribute.