Dr Neil James


Executive Director


Neil is 'Dr Plain English', the man whose passion for clear communication gave life to the Foundation. He oversees all aspects of our work, drawing from his many years of experience as a trainer, editor, writer and speaker.

Neil also leads our community program, campaigning for clearer, more ethical public language.

After starting his career in government and the media, Neil worked as a book reviewer and freelance editor. He then established a communications consultancy within Halstead Press.

When a state Treasury asked him whether he could ‘teach us how you do that’, he and fellow writer Dr Peta Spear set up what became the Plain English Foundation in 2003. The Foundation has now helped tens of thousands of professionals in over 250 organisations to improve their communication.

Professional qualifications

  • Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (HBA Learning Centres)
  • Doctor of Philosophy in English (University of Sydney)
  • Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in English (University of Sydney)


Neil has made an outstanding contribution to advancing plain language in Australia and overseas.

At the 2019 Plain Language Association International (PLAIN) conference, he received the Christine Mowat Plain Language Achievement Award, which recognises his work to:

  • create this Foundation
  • establish what is now the International Plain Language Federation (IPLF)
  • develop the 2010 options paper that shaped the plain language movement.

He has served as both President and Vice President of PLAIN, and chaired the International Plain Language Working Group. In 2020, he was appointed as chair of the IPLF Certification Committee that is developing international certification for plain language documents, organisations, training and individuals.

He often presents at conferences and other events, which have taken him from Amsterdam, Dublin, Oslo and Washington to Antwerp, Auckland, Lisbon and Mexico City. In 2009, he was co-convenor of the biennial PLAIN conference.

Neil is also a regular speaker about language in the media throughout Australia. He has published 3 books and over 75 articles and essays on language and literature. In 2019 he was a founding editor of PLAIN’s e-journal.

His co-authored book, Modern Manglish, skewers the worst excesses of tautology, doublespeak and mixed metaphors, illustrated by Australia’s premier editorial cartoonist Alan Moir. His previous book, Writing at Work, has become a standard reference on workplace communication.


 Our clients say

Neil's passion for writing is so infectious. He reignited my love of the English language.

Project manager, environmental consultancy

We were lucky to have the benefit of an expert in communication.

Executive officer, educational organisation

Neil's presentation made the workshop so enjoyable it didn't feel like work at all!

Communications director, social services agency