The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is very close to publishing a new standard: Plain language – Part 1: Governing principles and guidelines (ISO 24495-1).
This standard includes principles, guidelines and techniques to help writers everywhere communicate clearly. This means that their ‘wording, structure, and design are so clear that the intended audience can easily find what they need, understand what they find, and use that information.’¹
The ISO standard will help writers around the world to understand how to do this. But what does it mean for you?
Benefits for organisations
The standard will help organisations to define what they mean by best practice and achieve it consistently. This in turn will help them reap the benefits of plain language: saved staff time, increased productivity and greater customer engagement.
It will also help corporations show their commitment to inclusivity, because plain language is ‘accessible, ethical, trustworthy, and practical’.²
Benefits for governments
Inclusivity and fairness are also critical for governments. Plain language helps to make government advice accessible to everyone, so it is no surprise that agencies such as Services Australia have already adopted the concept as their standard.
In Australia, adopting the standard will be voluntary unless it’s referenced in legislation. But the World Trade Organisation requires governments to base their national regulations on standards such as those published by ISO.
This means that legislators can use the standard as a starting point for a plain language act in Australia, following in the footsteps of the US and New Zealand.
Benefits for individuals
As organisations and governments improve their communications, we will all benefit. Individuals will better understand our rights and responsibilities in all aspects of life: from privacy statements and product instructions to laws and contracts.
For people who write at work, the standard will be a more practical resource.
A simple starting point
If meeting an international standard feels overwhelming, let us get you started with our training and editing services. We can help you ensure you meet the new ISO standard and enhance relationships with your clients and colleagues along the way.
As Australia’s leading plain English company, we deliver hundreds of training courses every year. Our participants come away with vastly improved writing skills and a newfound enthusiasm for communicating with clarity and precision.
We also provide premium plain English consulting and editing services that can radically improve specific documents or help you to transform your whole writing culture.
¹ International Plain Language Federation, Plain language definitions, accessed 28 April 2023, https://www.iplfederation.org/plain-language/
² M Geddy, W Risvold and M T Stratton, Plain language is best for business communication, article, AACSB, 2022, accessed 28 April 2023, https://www.aacsb.edu/insights/articles/2022/07/plain-language-is-best-for-business-communication