Clearer factsheets for the Victorian Legislative Assembly
After assessing the fact sheets, guides and brochures of the Victorian Legislative Assembly using our verbumetrics™ evaluation system, the Foundation worked with the Assembly to edit and design a pilot group of 12 factsheets into plain English. We then:
Lost in translation
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- advised the Assembly on organising and displaying the full range of factsheets on their website
- improved the online information architecture to help users find the factsheets they want
- designed a clearer webpage information design for all factsheet content.
We were very impressed that you interpreted parliamentary procedure and terminology so well. We found it a very useful exercise.
Deputy Clerk, Legislative Assembly of Victoria
Better writing style guide for REST Superannuation
After developing a style guide for REST Superannuation to help staff write for various audiences in a clear, professional and approachable voice, the Foundation ran our Understanding style seminar to launch the guide. Along with standard style topics, such as capitalisation, numbering and hyphenation, we gave REST Superannuation comprehensive advice on:
- writing effective letters and emails
- achieving active voice
- web writing protocols.
Thanks for the style seminar. I found it enormously useful and I know many of the participants did as well. We have really enjoyed working with you.
Corporate Communications Manager, REST Superannuation
Achieving cultural change
In May 2001, a leading government department commissioned our plain English writing evaluation and training program for managers and team leaders. The response was so positive that we began organisation-wide training — 27 courses for over 230 staff, including the CEO and Executive.
The department then asked us to re-design its flagship published reports. We did a writing audit of the reports and developed a value-oriented structure to emphasise key results and analysis. We then engineered standard internal and client documents such as templates and client reports.
The Foundation supported the transition to plain English through a second round of refresher workshops with managers. We redeveloped the organisation's style manual and co-authored its annual report, and provided editorial consulting on key public reports.
The average document is now 40% shorter, much clearer, and far more readable.
The organisation's major stakeholders have been extremely receptive, and the department's writing culture has shifted permanently.
We did a writing audit and began organisation-wide training in a major government department in October 2000. We have now trained all staff, from its Executive to the executive assistants.
We were then invited to re-engineer standard document templates:
- ministerial briefings
- cabinet materials
- technical circulars
- parliamentary briefing notes.
We developed new writing templates which the Minister approved them enthusiastically. We also co-wrote and edited key policy documents, reports and papers.
Our progress reports assess the new writing skills. Our second-round writing workshops are now honing individual staff skills and targeting specific writing tasks such as report writing.
The average departmental document is now one-third shorter, and readability has lifted significantly.
Staff surveys show that fewer submissions need redrafting, saving considerable time and bringing lasting improvements in clarity, efficiency and readability.
It has made us all think more clearly as well.