The Auditor General’s office spends $40,000 a year on a consultant to provide advice, answer plain language writing questions, and give feedback to senior managers on their writing. The office also has an internal peer group to support plain language writing.

There is no policy or official statement that says the office will use plain language. The plain language focus has become part of everything that the office does. At the early stages employees think of how their writing will be included in the annual report. The Auditor General’s office is also finding that their plain language work helps to improve the way other departments communicate with taxpayers.

Lessons Learned

  • Get support at the top by showing the benefits of plain language.
  • Champions should model clear writing.
  • Emphasize training and help people to “own” their writing. Avoid rewriting for others. This is only a short-term solution and doesn’t create permanent change.
  • Recognize that the process of writing helps people understand and make their thinking clearer.
  • Make clear communications part of the basic abilities required of all employees. Once acceptable standards of competency are developed, it will be easier during performance reviews to identify people who need improvement and feed that into training plans. People need to know that their competence will be measured.
  • Reward people using plain language with money or some other means.
  • Look for continuous improvement, rather than rapid change. Don’t create a backlash.
  • Consider the need for plain language on the internet as more people use it to access information.

4.5 Government of Canada

The government of Canada is a liberal democracy. It has an obligation to inform Canadians on a wide-range of issues, programs and services.

A Plain Language Section in Communications Policy
Plain language is one of 31 policy requirements in the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada. It has been a provision in the federal communications policy since at least 1988.

The policy states: “To ensure clarity and consistency of information, plain language and proper grammar must be used in all communication with the public.” The plain language provision applies to communications within and outside of government. It does not apply to Crown corporations.